In line with the Philippine Air Force modernization program, the 2nd Air Division based in Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base, Lapulapu City was deactivated on 15 October 1998 and subsequently, the Tactical Operations Command (TOC) was organized and activated pursuant to paragraph 1, General Orders Number 426, HPAF DTD 15 October 1998.
The Tactical Operations Command is an AFP component vital in addressing the present challenges and security environment of the country. It is envisioned to be a functional national command, which will orchestrate all tactical operations in the conduct of internal security operations (ISO) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
It has on its inventory various types of aircraft suited for counter-insurgency operations. These include UH1H utility helicopters, MG-520 attack helicopters, SF-260 and OV-10 Broncos. It has also N-22 transport aircraft from 220th Airlift Wing attached to the TOC, which is utilized to perform reconnaissance, finance runs, administrative flights and other related missions.
Under its command and control are three (3) operating units namely: the 2nd Tactical Operations Wing based in Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base, Lapulapu City, which is in charge of the whole Visayas area, and the 3rd Tactical Operations Wing based in Edwin Andrews Air Base, Zamboanga City, which covers the whole Mindanao area, and the 4th Tactical Operations Wing based in Antonio Bautista Air Base, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan which covers the western front of the country.
IN THE SIXTIES, borne on the wings of an extensive radar system, an armed fleet of F-5s, and recognition from the United Nations, the PAF positioned itself in high altitude over Asia. But challenged on two fronts beginning 1972 by NPA insurgency and MNLF secession, the PAF develop largely into a tactical force.
Two of the biggest tactical engagements were Sibalu Hill and the Burning of Jolo. Sibalu Hill involved sixty fighters, taking off one minute intervals from Mactan, while Jolo demanded everything from the Air Force ? F-5s, F-86s, AC-47s, UH-1H helis, U-17s even T-34 trainers taken out of the PAF Flying School.
This year 2000, just when airmen were looking to shift to external defense, the MILF stormed Kauswagan in Lanao del Norte and took down the Filipino flag, sending the AFP to the conditions of the 70s again.
Difference in Numbers
The major difference this time was in numbers, but not in the outcome. Even with far lesser number of aircraft, the PAF delivered heavily for the government.
PAF?S defining unit
At the forefront of the AFP?s success moved Tactical Operations Command, the defining unit of the Air Force in Mindanao.
Charged with the mission of conducting the tactical air operations of the AFP, the TOC reflects the air power tenet of placing the airman in charge of the overall air effort in any area. Its vision, to be a functional national command of the PAF , and agile force multiplier in both combat and humanitarian missions got validated under fire.
Barely two years old, the TOC, indeed, has been quite an impact player. The day following the rebel takeover of Kauswagan, two OV-10 Broncos under TOC?s operational control struck and pounded Camp John Mack, the enemy?s forward point of resistance. Right on that day, the command?s pilots turned the tide of the battle. One direct hit yielded 23 KIA, courtesy of female officer assigned with 15th Strike Wing.
In weeks another female combat pilot earned a Gold Cross for bravery and precision in relieving a team of Scout Rangers of hostile fire, whose leader happened to be her husband.
In the ensuing weeks, the air assets of TOC repeatedly plunged into action and dictated the tempo. Enemy fortifications were leveled, bunkers caved in, and rebel troop concentrations got decimated.
By the end of the second week, Apo Hill and Camp Bilal were overrun, along with several satellite camps. Into the second month, Camp Sarmiento, Rajah Muda, and Camp Bushra, the second biggest camp, were captured by government troops.
Finally on July 7, Camp Abubakar, the MILF?s general headquarters fell under joint attack from the Army, Marines, and the Air Force.
The laurels came from the collective efforts of the pilots of 15th Strike Wing, 5th Fighter Wing, and 205th TOW, the air sentinels of CTGs and CTWs and the support personnel of 223rd AS, the AIRD, 505th ARS who extended tactical airlift, intelligence updates, and combat rescue capability.
But the strokes came from the common appreciation of tactical airpower, espoused no end by the TOC Commander.
Traditional CAS Paradigm
The airpower recently seen in Mindanao is not yet the kind of engagement envisioned by the TOC. However, PAF tactical action has remained closely intertwined with Army ground action. In reality, tactical operations straddle two main areas: battlefield air interdiction and close air support. Many advanced Air Forces today maintain that the Air Force should engage the adversary not only away from friendly forces, but interdict deep into the nerve centers, the major arteries, and lifelines of the enemy, to destroy his capability to fight.
Contribution to Development
Away from the battlefield, across the plains and mountains of growth and centers of peace, tactical operations have taken on equally significant dimensions.
In the recent closure of Cotabato Airport and temporary pullout or dipping of investor confidence from GenSan and Davao due to terrorist?s bombings, TOC?s air assets had been quick to scour the area for movements and our CTG personnel themselves took over, in coordination with the PNP, and helped secure the aviation complex perimeters and aerodrome. TOC?s assets have likewise helped secure the border, watch the coastline, and do search, rescue and recovery.
This early, TOC is committed to help rebuild the communities damaged by combat operation in Cotabato.
It is likewise preparing to conduct extensive CMO in the affected areas. The Command, based in the heart of an industrial zone in Mactan, is looking at many other ways to assist the populace and set a difference.
Explains General Defensor: ?The circumstances do not matter. TOC is the force multiplier that will redefine the Air Force of the Future.?
The future is in the skies
For the TOC, the future this connotes three things:
? A vision of speed, range and versatility
? A date with history
(TOC is barely two years old, but is already on the lips of soldiers who have seen combat or who engaged in rescue.
The PAF?s real power today lies in its capability to fly the missions for internal peace and the national interest. In this regard, the Tactical Operation?s Command, by virtue of function, carries the PAF standard, in peace and war.
The TOC will certainly do better with revitalized tactical doctrines, a new system, and modern hardware.
Like the Olympics ideals, swifter, stronger, higher is the way of the Tactical Operations Command in the future.
On 11 December 2007, the Tactical Operations Command was de-activated and the 2ND Air Division was re-activated pursuant to GO Nr 307, HPAF dated 31 August 2007.