The Air Force intends to nearly double the number of airmen serving as combat aviation advisers under Air Force Special Operations Command.

The advisers serve as AFSOC’s partner force trainers, sent abroad to mentor special operations air crews in allied nations.

Although the career field has grown in recent years, the number of advisers, or CAAs, still falls short of desired levels.

“We currently stand at roughly 180 CAAs including our [Air Force] Reserve component at the 919th SOW,” Maggie Nave, an AFSOC public affairs official, told Air Force Times. “We are looking to grow to about 352 CAAs.”

The effort to double the CAA career field is being guided by goals within the National Defense Strategy, according to Military.com, which first reported the news.

The intention is to build and sustain five year-round advisory sites at partner-force locations across the globe by 2023, Military.com reported.

CAAs are scarce, and so they’re sparingly pushed out to key U.S. allies. Once there, the advisers are responsible for integrating with ground-based special operations force advisers “to conduct special operations activities by, with, and through foreign aviation forces,” according to the Air Force.

Combat aviation advisers train with simulated partner forces during a cultural engagement scenario in Florida. (Airman 1st Class Joseph Pick/Air Force)
Combat aviation advisers train with simulated partner forces during a cultural engagement scenario in Florida. (Airman 1st Class Joseph Pick/Air Force)

In Afghanistan, for instance, CAAs aren’t used to train and advise the entire Afghan Air Force. Instead, the advisers focus on supporting Afghanistan’s Special Mission Wing — an elite cohort of Afghan pilots who conduct rotary-wing and fixed-wing intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance for all Afghan special operations forces.

“[Train Advise Assist Command]-Air is the conventional force air adviser element, charged with training, advising, and assisting the Afghan Air Force at large,” Nave said. “Having said that, throughout the years, we have had some CAAs who have deployed in support of TAAC-Air as individuals, but that was a function of AFSOC’s normal levy to support [Air Forces Central Command], not as a CAA-specific tasking.”

Over the past several years, the demand for these advisers among partner nations has exploded. Because of this, the CAA presence is finally growing to meet the mission across the various geographic combatant commands.

Due to the unique nature of their mission, advisers tend to operate non-standard aircraft that are more likely to be found in a host nation’s air force inventory than their own.

One such aircraft is the C-145A, a twin-engine plane capable of short takeoff and landings on unprepared runways, according to the Air Force.

In order to apply for the CAA career field, airmen must already be highly rated in their current Air Force Specialty Code, prove language proficiency on the defense language aptitude battery, have excellent physical fitness scores, and be willing to enmesh themselves in foreign cultures.

Airmen in 18 AFSCs are eligible to apply for CAA training. They include special operations pilot, combat systems officer, air liaison officer, intelligence analyst, security forces and general medical officer, among others.