Korean War Tactical Air Control Party Radio Jeep

TACP MB/GPW jeep in Korea.  As explained on this page, during the Korean War the TACP jeeps were modified to support the specialized mission of forward air controllers.  Photo is from a display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH.  Photo:  Courtesy Bob Pettit
TACP MB/GPW jeep in Korea. As explained on this page, during the Korean War the TACP jeeps were modified to support the specialized mission of forward air controllers. Photo is from a display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH. Photo: Courtesy Bob Pettit.

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Korean War Tactical Air Control Party Radio Jeep

Early in the Korean War, air controller teams used World War II methods to call in airstrikes. A team in a jeep went forward to observe the enemy and call for air support by radio, directly controlling air strikes at the front line. Since the jeep on high gound was often visible to enemy forces, there were excessive casualties at first. The limitations of these ground-based observers led to the creation of the highly successful Mosquito airborne forward air controllers (FACs). Even though the FACs took over most of the TACPs original role, the TACPs developed a new and important mission as the war progressed. [Photo to the left shows a TACP jeep and personnel during the Korean War].

A TACP (Tactical Air Control Party) consisted of an experienced T-6D Mosquito pilot, a radio operator, a radio mechanic, and one or two radio jeeps, World War II MB/GPWs at first. On 23 July 1950, the 6132d Tactical Air Control Group (TACG) took over the principal duty to supply the radio communications required by the Mosquitoes. The 6132d also absorbed the TACPs already in Korea and assumed responsibility for providing additional TACPs to the expanding Eighth Army, organized as Tactical Control Squadrons.

Close up of radios mounted in TACP jeep, National Museum of the United States Air Force,  Wright-Patterson AFB, OH
Close up of radios mounted in TACP jeep, National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH. Photo: Courtesy Bob Pettit.

One TACP was allocated to each US infantry regiment and higher unit headquarters, and to each ROK division and corps. As quickly as the Far East Air Materiel Command could fabricate them, the 6132d group provided additional radio-control jeeps along with radio operators and mechanics. Some FACs were obtained from the United States but most came from tactical groups which were required to provide combat pilots initially for three weeks’ temporary duty as FACs.

The TACPs became communication links between ground commanders, airborne Mosquito FACs, and strike aircraft. The TACP jeeps were the only ground units at the front that could communicate between the incompatible radio systems. They also coordinated artillery fire with air strikes. Further, having the experience of the Mosquito pilot so close at hand enabled ground commanders to best benefit from the use of air power.

Personnel of the 6147th Tactical Air Control Group, known as the "Mosquitoes," were the first to create a large-scale, comprehensive airborne FAC system. At the outset of airborne FAC, the first plane employed was the L-5, which was already in use by the Army for artillery spotting. It was considered largely unsatisfactory, however, and the T-6 became the FAC aircraft for the duration of the conflict.

The early TACPs FAC radio was a heavy, jeep-mounted device that depended on the jeep for power. By 1951, the Air Force adopted a better jeep (the M-38), a new radio, and a more powerful generator to run both the radio and a homing beacon. The eight-channel (ARC-3) and four-channel (SCR-522) radios gave the FAC increased capability to talk with aircraft.

Air Force TACP personnel of the Tactical Control Squadrons lived as soldiers during their tour at the front, unofficially nicknamed the "Air Force Infantry." Although they received combat pay and took casualties early in the war, the Tactical Control Squadrons were officially considered to be a non-combat unit.

TACP Jeep at the USAF Museum

Restored TACP jeep at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH.  Photo:  Courtesy Bob Pettit
Restored TACP jeep at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH. Photo: Courtesy Bob Pettit.

The jeep displayed at the USAF Museum is a World War II vintage Willys MB/Ford GPW, restored, fitted with radio equipment, and donated to the USAF Museum by the Mosquito Association in 2001. TACP jeeps were easily identified by the antennae above the rear wheels.

Recommended Book about Korean War Air Operations

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