GAF air commands normally detail air liaison
officers (Fliegerverbindungsoffiziere, or "Flivos") to the headquarters of
Army divisions and higher
units, to ensure that army requests for air support and air reconnaissance are
properly transmitted to the air headquarters concerned.
However, the experience in the Libyan campaigns indicated that properly
coordinated air support of armored units required the assignment of a GAF
officer to armored combat echelons below division headquarters. Such an officer
must be an experienced pilot, capable of rapidly estimating the weight of air
attack necessary to support a particular field operation, and capable of directing
the concentration of this attack on any given target at the moment which the tank
commander determines to be most advantageous.
In this way, air strength can be utilized to its maximum effectiveness,
avoiding the dispatch of large formations to deal with small targets or of
insufficient numbers to cover large and scattered objectives. During an attack against
a moving target, a liaison officer with flying experience can best direct the
aircraft. He controls them by radio from a vantage point where he can watch, and if
necessary, follow up the target.
In Tunisia, up to December, 1942, the GAF liaison officer had not operated
directly with the armored combat echelons, but had been depending on
information supplied by the commanders of subordinate armored units. Since this
information frequently proved unreliable for purposes of effective air support, the
air command decided to appoint one of their own officers for direct liaison with
the combat echelons. This officer rides in a liaison tank, which operates in the
second wave of tanks, near the tank of the armored unit commander.
Assuming, for example, that an attacking tank regiment of an armored
division is held up by enemy resistance and immediate air support is needed, the
procedure would be as follows. The regimental commander consults with the
air liaison officer, and a decision is made as to the air support required. The
request for air support is then transmitted by radio to the headquarters of the
Fliegerführer (officer in charge of air operations in the area); this message is
simultaneously received at the headquarters of the armored division. The
message should include the position and type of target to be attacked, the estimated
number of aircraft required, the type and height of cloud cover, and the possible
opposition to be encountered.
The Fliegerführer then orders, from the airdrome nearest the scene of
action, such air support as he thinks necessary, and notifies the liaison officer
when the formation is about to take off. Direct communication between the liaison
officer and the aircraft is established after the formation is airborne. The
liaison officer directs the planes to the target by radio. If, meanwhile, the target
has changed position, he indicates its new location. Radio contact is also
maintained between the liaison officer, the commander of the tank regiment, and the
Comment: The above information seems to bear out reports from other
sources concerning German practice in recent operations, and as such, is
considered to be worthy of credence.