The Combat Controller Teams (CCT) of B Flight, 4 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force are a relatively recent addition to Australia’s special operations capability. They trace their origin to 2006 when the Australian Special Forces Commander asked the Deputy Chief of Air Force whether the RAAF was capable of fielding personnel similar to the United States Air Force Combat Controllers who had been working alongside Australian Special Forces in Afghanistan.
As a result, the RAAF Air Group Combat Commander established the Special Tactic Project Proof of Concept Trial. The aim was for selected volunteers to pass the commando training cycle and trained as Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC) before deploying in support of special forces.
Australian Joint Terminal Attack Controller patches 2006 – 2019. Whilst not exclusively Special Forces (the 5 week course trains personnel from all three branches of the ADF), like most contemporary Australian insignia, these JTAC patches have been extensively faked to supply the collectors market. These four patches are examples of original insignia requested for wear by the end users. Collection: Julian Tennant
Combat Controllers from No. 4 Squadron based at RAAF Base Williamtown practice close air support serials with PC-21 aircraft during Exercise Havoc Strike. Combat Control Teams (CCT) from No. 4 Squadron participated in Exercise Havoc Strike from 25 May – 12 June 2020 near Buladelah, New South Wales. Havoc Strike is a tactical level exercise in support of No. 4 Squadron combat control Mission Specific Training objectives. The training concentrates on preparing Combat Control Teams for the application of Close Air Support, Rules of Engagement and Laws of Armed Conflict. The exercise has two phases; a theory phase, conducted at RAAF Williamtown, NSW, followed by a practical close air support phase in a training area near the town of Bulahdelah, NSW. Photo: Department of Defence
A Combat Control Team (CCT) member briefs the Offensive Air Support (OAS) plan to aircrew for a Close Air Support (CAS) mission as part of Exercise FARU SUMU 01-2012. Combat Controllers are essential for the successful integration of OAS to maximise available combat power and focus its effects in order to support the Commander’s plan. Mid Caption: One hundred and forty Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) personnel are in the Northern Territory, to participate in Exercise FARU SUMU 01-2012. Ten F/A-18F Super Hornets from RAAF Amberley’s No. 6 Squadron and Combat Control Team (CCT) personnel from RAAF Williamtown’s No 4 Squadron are participating in this exercise for the first time from 11-29 March 2012. Exercise FARU SUMU is used by the 6 Squadron instructional staff to test and evaluate the structure and format of the exercise to ensure the desired learning outcomes can be achieved on future FARU SUMU exercises with the new F/A-18F Super Hornets. Exercise FARU SUMU is conducted out of RAAF Darwin, Tindal and Delamere Weapons Range. Photo: LACW Kylie Gibson (ADF)
Between 2008 and 2009, three intakes completed initial training and four members were deployed with the Special Operations Task Group (SOTG). This resulted in the ‘Combat Controller’ mustering (RAAF terminology for ‘trade’) and Air Surface Integration officer stream being created in 2012 and the CCT role declared an Initial Operating Capability.
RAAF Combat Controller Team member. Note the distinctive CCT qualification patch on his chest. Photo: Department of Defence.
A Combat Controller from No. 4 Squadron calls in close air support from a PC-21 during Exercise Havoc Strike 2020. Note the 4 Squadron patch on his right shoulder. Photo: Corporal Craig Barrett (Australian Defence Force)
A Royal Australian Air Force No. 4 Squadron Combat Controller frees a quad bike from its pallet after a parachute insertion into the Mosquito Flats Drop Zone in the Bradshaw Field Training Area during Exercise Diamond Storm 2019. Note the CCT patch on his right shoulder and helmet ANF. Photo: Department of Defence.
A Combat Controller from No. 4 Squadron Combat Control Team conducts an airfield survey on a dry lake bed in the Nevada Test and Training Range. Photo: Department of Defence
Royal Australian Air Force Combat Control Team personnel parachute into Batchelor Airfield in the Northern Territory during Exercise Pitch Black 2018. Photo: Department of Defence
Selection to become a combat controller is open to any member of the Australian Defence Force (ADF). Volunteers first complete an 8 week CCT intake course which provides ground skills training and prepares them for the Special Forces Entry Test (SFET). Those who pass the SFET must then undertake around 18 months of testing and training in which they are required to complete the commando reinforcement cycle, JTAC, aviation meteorology, assault zone reconnaissance and air weapons delivery courses.
The video, below shows the CCT’s conducting their annual parachute continuation training as part of Exercise Havoc Drop 20-1 which took place 13-17 July 2020 at Wagga Wagga in NSW.
Upon qualification they are presented their distinctive grey CCT beret and qualification brevet, becoming part of B Flight of 4 Squadron, RAAF, which is the squadron tasked with providing operational training to Forward Air Controllers (FAC) and support of the Australian Army’s Special Operations Command. The Squadron is divided into three main roles, FAC(A) is the airborne control of air assets, JTAC training (C Flight) and CCT (B Flight).
Since their formation, the CCT’s have conducted operations with SOTG, participated in several joint exercises with allied nations and recently in late 2019 early 2020, assisted in humanitarian operations within Australia as part of the ADF efforts to combat the devastating bushfires that swept large tracts of the east coast of Australia over the summer months.
RAAF CCT display at the ‘From the Shadows: Australia’s Special Forces’ exhibition at the Australian War Memorial in 2017/18. Unfortunately I did not record the caption detail surrounding the RAAF CCT Commendation for Gallantry medal group shown in the display. Note the PVC Combat Controller Team patch. Photo: Julian Tennant
Beret & Insignia
Special Operations Training & Education Centre Commando qualification beret parade, November 2019. 36 army personnel and 3 RAAF combat controllers passed the 14 month-long commando reinforcement cycle. The RAAF combat controllers are awarded the RAAF ‘air superiority grey’ berets whilst the army personnel receive sherwood green berets. Photo: Sergeant Janine Fabre (Australian Defence Force)
Once qualified, Combat Controllers are awarded a distinctive Combat Controller Team insignia which is worn both as a qualification badge and also on their beret. The badge (NSN 8455-66-162-5061) consists of a Fairbairn-Sykes commando dagger on a winged shield. The dagger represents the close link combat controllers share with the special forces they support. The shield symbolises the protection of ground forces, from harm during combat operations and the wings represent the air-power integration role of the combat controller.
Detail from the Air Force Dress Manual showing the embroidered Combat Controller Team qualification Badge.
The badge is worn on the left breast of dress uniforms, 3mm above medals/ribbons or flying badge if applicable. Cloth, metal and a mess dress miniature versions are used, depending on the uniform type.
The metal badge is also worn on a black shield on the CCT beret which, unlike other RAAF berets is ‘air superiority’ grey, the colour signifying the presence of aviation in the daily duties of the combat controller. Mark Corcoran and Arthur Butler, author’s of the excellent reference books, Metal Uniform Embellishments of the Australian Army – Post 53 (‘QE II series’) volumes 1 & 2 also feature some of the prototype variations of the badge on their charliebravobooks blog which is worth checking out.
Beret badge and Commando wings worn by the Combat Control Teams of B Flight 4 Squadron RAAF. Collection: Julian Tennant
CCT’s also wear a distinctive parachute qualification wing which differs from the standard Air Force parachutist badge. The wings are referred to in the Air Force Dress Manual as a ‘Commando Badge’ (NSN 8455-66-157-9911) and reflects the Army’s commando parachutist qualification design but has a white parachute with light blue wings on an Air Force blue background. A miniature version embroidered with gold bullion on a black background (NSN 8455-66-134-1212) is worn on the upper left sleeve of the mess dress jacket. The authority for the award and withdrawal of the Commando Badge is the Commanding Officer, 4SQN.
Page detail from the RAAF Dress manual showing the distinctive Commando parachutist wings worn by qualified CCT members of 4 Sqn RAAF.
CCT’s have also been seen wearing a variety of Combat Controller Team patches and distinctive RAAF ANF insignia, some of which are shown below. At this stage, these insignia are less well known amongst collectors as they are tightly controlled by the unit and have not (yet) been subect to the massive number of fakes and reproductions that have occurred with other Australian Special Forces insignia. Sadly, it is only a matter of time before the fakes start appearing on eBay and elsewhere. If you do have original examples of the RAAF 4 Squadron or CCT patches or insignia, for sale or trade, I am really interested in hearing from you as I’d love to add these to my collection.
CCT and ANF patches circa 2012. A No. 4 Squadron Combat Control Team (4SQN CCT) member on board a C-130H Hercules aircraft during Exercise Pitch Black 2012. Photographer: LACW Shannon McCarthy (Australian Defence Force)
2020. RAAF 4 Squadron shoulder patch worn by the CCT’s of B Flight.
2012. CCT patch and RAAF 4 Squadron patch being worn during Exercise Furu Sumu in 2012.
PVC CCT patch being used during 2017
CCT patch being used in 2019
CCT patch being used during 2017
2019. An unusual CCT helmet mounted patch which appearss to be a painted aluminium sheet. Seen being worn during Exercise Cope North 19, Guam.
CCT patch circa 2019. A Royal Australian Air Force No. 4 Squadron Combat Control Team, load equipment onto a Japan Air Self-Defense Force KC-130H Hercules, as part of Exercise Cope North 19, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Photo: Sgt Kirk Peacock (Australian Defence Force)
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