EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --
Air battle managers and mission system operators from Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma integrate with 58th Fighter Squadron F-35A Lightning II pilots Aug. 6-20, 2021, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska to better understand the F-35 and pilots’ capabilities.
“The initial qualification is the first time many of the student pilots have integrated with ABMs,” said Capt. Jonathan Lowell. ”Getting them exposure to ABM command and control throughout the many F-35 mission sets prepares them for the large force engagements they will participate in after reaching their operational bases. The ability of ABMs and F-35 pilots to understand each other's jobs helps to increase fighter lethality and overall mission success.”
Air battle managers are aviation career professionals that control the air battle space by providing a bird’s-eye view that increases situational awareness.
“For every mission, we use a control system, whether we are airborne and are using the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft or we're on the ground using the BC3 from the control and reporting center here,” said 1st Lt. Analicia Esmay, 963rd Airborne Air Control Squadron air battle manager. “We provide an extra layer of situational awareness for the pilots. Certain things that they can't see, we might be able to see from a ‘God's-eye’ view.”
At Tinker AFB, air battle managers and mission system operators rarely get the opportunity to command and control F-35s, so this training has given them a more in-depth look into how fighter pilots operate.
”Being in the same place, same rooms and hearing what they're thinking about from mission planning, actually doing the mission and then sitting in the debrief and learning what they're thinking about as they're going through the mission helps make us better controllers and better understand what the fighters we’re controlling need from us,” said Capt. Steve Mohan, 963rd Airborne Air Control Squadron air battle manager and assistant flight commander.
During their time at Eielson AFB, air battle managers and mission system operators worked closely together to improve training and processes to operate as efficiently as possible together.
“In the past we would normally just focus on surveillance from home station, but we're moving more towards synchronizing with ABMs and getting involved in those processes,” said Senior Airman Garrett Anderson, 960th Airborne Air Control Squadron mission system operator. “It's a new concept and it's interesting to learn new ways to work with the ABMs that we would not have had the opportunity to do through deployments or at home station.”
Mission system operators are the enlisted counterparts to ABMs and assist the mission by using radar, communications and electronic equipment to help manage the battle space during tactical and strategic missions.
To become an ABM, officers must attend initial training at the 337th Air Control Squadron, a geographically separated unit attached to the 33rd Fighter Wing that trains officers to become air battle managers who will synchronize weapons, sensors and fuel to meet a mission's needs.
Students at the 337th ACS air battle manager schoolhouse go through a six-month undergraduate course to learn the various systems, how to operate them and the scope of their responsibilities before moving on to a Control and Reporting Center or a Battle Control Center.
“If you’re at the doghouse now, take every opportunity to study and control because you have a lot of opportunities down there to see a lot of missions and start building habits that will carry through the rest of your career,” said Mohan.
The 337th ACS mission is to build professional battle management warriors for the U.S. Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. The ABM course prepares Airmen for duty aboard either the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) or the E-8 Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System (J-STAR) aircraft. They provide command and control capability to airborne and ground units.