Air Battle Managers: Offensive Coordinators of the U.S. Air Force

  • Published
  • By 2d Lt. Ashlyn K. Paulson
  • 552nd Air Control Wing

In Oklahoma many are aware that Tinker Air Force Base is home to the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft with the giant roto-dome; many, however, are unaware that this aircraft has a specific role in the Air Force that is like no other – an Air Battle Manager.

An ABM is a rated officer career field in the Air Force that provides command and control capability to airborne and ground units.

“An ABM is in charge of making real-time battle management decisions in order to achieve the objective of the mission,” said Capt. Kevin Gahris, an ABM with the 960th Airborne Air Control Squadron. “While the aircraft is flying, ABMs are onboard gathering information, either from our own systems, or from other assets, digesting and understanding the information, and disseminating to the appropriate agencies or assets

The core functions of an ABM include orienting shooters, pairing shooters, solving problems, speed decisions, bringing order and up-channeling assessments.

To become an ABM, officers must attend an undergraduate course with the 337th Air Control Squadron at Tyndall AFB, Florida. This training focuses on air defense, close air support, capabilities and limitations, defensive and offensive counter air operations, large force employment and personnel recovery.

ABMs have multiple different career tracks including the E-3 AWACS, the Control and Reporting Center and the E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System. Depending which track is received, the Airman then receives more training at the designated track’s training squadron.

For ABMs on the E-3 AWACS, after finishing undergraduate training, the Airman comes to the 552nd Air Control Wing where they must complete initial qualification training, followed by mission qualification training before they are assigned to an operational squadron and allowed to partake in missions.

“When discussing this career, I often compare it to the offensive coordinator on a football team,” said Gahris. “The coordinators are behind the scene, watching the offense and defense battle it out. Based on what we see happening on the field, we have to be able to make real time changes to the game plan in order to win. We may not be the players on the field partaking in direct action such as pilots, but without clear, concise and correct information from the ABMs, that overall sight picture would cease to exist.”