The Air Battle Manager Badge, awarded to officers in Air Force Specialty Code 13BX, is one of of just five Aeronautical rating badges awarded by the United States Air Force. (Note: The Combat Systems Operator badge is also worn by some officers rated as Navigators or Observers.)

Although Air Battle Manager (ABM) did not become a rated Aeronautical specialty in 1999, Airmen had been performing some of the duties that now fall under the purview ABM officers, a fact easily discerned by looking at two of the rating’s specialty shredouts. The “B” shredout, for instance, qualifies officers to serve on AWACs (Airborne Early Warning and Control) E-3, which was first introduced in 1977; the “K” shredout is for service as a crewmember of a Northrop Grumman E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System). It’s safe to assume the Air Force did not send these planes into the air without crews manning all the sophisticated sensors and detection equipment that ABM officers handle today.

The primary duties of an ABM revolve around successful execution of daily air sorties by controlling the battlespace, ensuring deconfliction by monitoring all assets in the operational area, and assisting the flight by interpreting sensor input and relaying it to the appropriate crewmembers. An ABM’s specific duties will vary from mission to mission: In an air-to-air combat situation, for example, the ABM employs radars to provide the pilot and other crewmembers with targeting information, situational awareness, and warnings of incoming aircraft or ordnance. They can also coordinate joint forces to call in friendly assets and exercise control over joint weapons systems

Candidates seeking to enter the ABM specialty must hold a bachelor’s degree in Science or Arts and qualify for entry into an officer-commissioning program. Graduates from the United States Air Force Academy receive both the required bachelor’s degree (in Science) and are commissioned as second lieutenants, while those who’ve earned their degrees at a traditional educational institution can qualify to attend Office Training School held at Maxwell Air Force Base.

Regardless of the path to officer commissioning, the next step for ABM specialists is the Undergraduate Air Battle Manager Course held at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida and conducted by the 325th Air Control Squadron (the only USAF squadron that trains future ABMs). Here they introduced into the foundation principles or Air Battle Management: identification of friendly and hostile aircraft and knowledge of their limitations and capabilities, execution of counteroperations (both offensive and defensive), engaging in air-defense suppression, mastering large force employment, and knowing the intricacies of close air support.

Successful completion of this course earns ABMS the right to wear the Basic badge—but this is the beginning of a very long journey. Graduates next undertake Apprentice training, lasting between a year-and-a-half t three years and focusing on weapon controllers. Over this course of time, they will move into their debut ABM position as either an Air Surveillance Officer or Senior Director. Further training on specific crew positions or equipment is at both intermediate and advanced levels, both at Tyndall Air Force Base and other locations such as Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

Because of the sensitive information with they will be dealing with on a daily basis, candidates for the Air Battle Manager officer specialty must pass a Single Scope Background Investigation.

Be aware that the Air Battle Managers who complete undergraduate training will automatically be awarded the basic Weapons Director occupational badge, but subsequent higher levels can be earned only on the Air Battle Manager badge.

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