Airborne Operations and Battle Management Job Facts

A U.S. Air Force E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control system aircraft (AWACS) flies over the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., Aug. 16, 2011, during Green Flag-West 11-9. The E-3 is assigned to the 965th Airborne Air Control Squadron at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.
U.S. Air Force / Senior Airman Brett Clashman

Air Force Specialty 1A4X1, airborne operations, was merged into AFSC 1A3X1, airborne mission systems, in November 2014. Under this change, former 1A4X1 personnel was assigned to aircraft such as the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System and the AWACS and E-4B.

Those who were gunship sensors for AC-130s were absorbed under AFSC 1A9X1, special missions aviation career field. The changes came due to budgetary considerations as well as the changing technical systems of the Air Force.

Specialty Summary for Airborne Operations 1A4X1 (Discontinued 2014)

Prior to this merger, the Airborne Operations specialty 1A4X1 included personnel who performed as mission aircrew members who used sensor systems to track aircraft, watercraft, and ground objects. They identified targets and coordinated with manned airborne weapons platforms or fire control systems. They used electronic warfare and electronic support measures and procedures. They operated communications with airborne and ground agencies and helped in mission planning. They compiled reports and analyses of missions.

Airborne Operations Duties and Battle Management

The duties of the Airborne Operations specialty included using manual and computer-assisted active and passive airborne-based sensor systems to acquire, identify, and track airborne, maritime, and ground objects.

These personnel discriminated between valid and invalid targets with radar, low-light television imagery, thermal and infrared imaging, and electronic identification. They maintained object position locations for the battle management databases and active engagement and reconnaissance.

They used procedures that were in accordance with the unified combatant command or theater rules of engagement. Identification of targets and their movements were communicated to allied units and weapons platforms. They maintained the communications links with defensive and offensive air, ground, and naval fire units and special operations forces. These duties helped ensure safe passage or fire support of allied forces. They coordinated with air traffic and airspace control agencies.

These personnel performed activities to direct weapons engagements. They provided navigation information for aircraft or external manned aircraft to track targets and friendly positions.

The information they provided was used by allied aircraft and ground units for offensive and defensive missions. These included close air support, interdiction, combat search and rescue, counter-insurgency, humanitarian relief, civilian evacuation, and special operations support.

They used intercept and engagement tactics. They fired gunship weapons on valid targets or targets of opportunity.

They were responsible for the safety of allied air assets under direct operational control and the safety of ground forces when working in the close air support role. They were responsible for limiting collateral damage.

They used electronic warfare (EW) and electronic support measures (ESM) techniques and procedures. These were used to protect against electronic attack or interference. ESM and external intelligence collection sources were used to assist in passive detection, tracking, and identification.

They communicated threat warnings in real time to aircrews. They transmitted weapons release conditions to manned air weapons and valid target and battle damage assessments. They coordinated communications.

Mission planning activities were done in accordance with unified combatant command or theater rules of engagement. Assisted in navigation and fire control planning. Determined effective air or ground weapons control and delivery tactics to achieve overall mission objectives.

They compiled a variety of reports including crew member, mission, and equipment data. They trained aircrew members and corrected faulty operational techniques.