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ABM History

Aerospace Battle Management is the new name for the Fighter Control Branch, which was created during WWII as a part of Air Vice-Marshall Dowding’s ‘Dowding System’ of air defence. The Dowding System was based on the concept of linked Sectors, each with either a radar (Chain Home High and Chain Home Low), or an RAF Observer post, reporting into a Group HQ, where the air war was controlled from an Operations Room. The Dowding System is acknowledged as the first integrated air defence command and control system in the world. The Fighter Controllers working within that system were originally injured or convalescing pilots, who used radio communications to vector defending squadrons onto attacking aircraft. The pilots were used because they ‘spoke the same language’ as the pilots in the aircraft they were directing. The air war was displayed on a large table, with markers depicting the various aircraft being moved around by ‘Plotters’ using long wooden poles. Today, the fundamentals of the Dowding system, an interlinked network of radars and sensors, with fighter aircraft held at readiness to intercept threat aircraft remains the same. However, due to the significantly higher numbers of aircraft today, the plotting is done by a sophisticated computer system. People still identify the threat or friendly aircraft, much the same way as the Royal Observer Corps did and are now known as Surveillance operators. Controllers still speak the same language as the pilots and direct the aircraft to engage the threat. These days though, they speak to a variety of combat aircraft and are known as Weapons Controllers (WC), not solely Fighter Controllers. The reason that the name changed from Fighter Control to Aerospace Battle Management, is that today, the Specialisation provides a great deal more than just Fighter, or Weapons Control. Indeed, Aerospace Battle Managers can be found at all levels of a conflict, from controlling or directing aerial warfare, to providing air battle management expertise to numerous parties in the air or on the ground, by de-conflicting friendly assets within a highly congested and dynamic three-dimensional battlespace.