Tactical Air Reconnaissance Liaison Officers (ARLOs)
Bob Freeman, HHC, 45th MID, 11/67 – 11/68

ARLOs were a key link between U.S. field commanders in RVN and reconnaissance elements that supported them.

Following approval of a reconnaissance request by the MACV J-2 Tactical Air Support Element (TASE) and the 7th AF Tactical Air Control Center (TACC), a frag (fragmentary) order would assign the targets to the 460th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing (TRW) at Tan Son Nhut AB (or the 1st Marine Air Wing, DaNang). The 460th would assign the mission to one of its reconnaissance squadrons and MIBARS ARLOs working in a small building collocated with the 460th HQ would be notified of the request. ARLOs worked 24/7 in two 12-hour shifts, to match the Wing’s day/night reconnaissance capability.

Before the target was flown, an ARLO and an Air Intelligence Officer briefed the aircrew. The ARLO, trained in reconnaissance, surveillance, and imagery interpretation, specifically focused on all available information that would assist the aircrew in successfully completing the mission and insured that the aircrew understood the results desired by the requestor. (When I arrived, ARLOs briefed from half-page, locally produced target sheets filled out with stubby pencils. These sheets were reused over and over and barely legible due to erasures.)

The aircrew would then complete their flight plan and compute times over targets (TOTs). The ARLO relayed this information to the relevant Direct Air Support Center (DASC) for artillery coordination (sometimes aircrews would coordinate artillery suppression with the ARLOs by phone patch while airborne, in the event they noted friendly artillery firing in the vicinity of a target—the maximum ordinate of artillery is several miles and posed a fratricide hazard to U.S. aircraft).

Postflight, while the sensor take was being processed, the ARLO and Air Intelligence Officer debriefed the aircrew on its mission, covering subjects such as visual sightings, enemy action, and any problems encountered with communications, artillery coordination, sensor performance or unexpected cloud cover, as examples. (As part of its postflight duties, to assist in sensor readout the crew would draw a pilot’s trace on a flimsy to show the route flown over the target, including IP and departure coordinates. However, one RF-101 pilot, Major Bond of the 45th TRS/Polkadots would draw his trace while airborne returning to base, to provide to the ARLO. He carried a CONFIDENTIAL stamp and inkpad in the cockpit and marked the trace top and bottom before landing.)

The ARLO could send urgent information developed during crew debriefings and/or rapid sensor readout directly to the field.

(When I was assigned as an ARLO in November 1967, I recall MAJ Cal Korf and CPT Spencer Kowamoto were senior ARLOs.)

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