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Theater Battle Management Core System

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A command and control system developed by the U.S. Air Force, but used by all air components (e.g., U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, and allied) under a theater air component commander, the Theater Battle Management Core System (TBMCS), defined by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is normally deployed as a 27-workstation system for planning and executing the air tasking order and Airspace Control Order (ACO) for a theater, Marine Air-Ground Task Force, etc.[1]

The TBMCS is part of the Global Information Grid, and is under the control of the Joint Force Air Component Commander in a theater of operations. It interfaces to other systems, such as the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System, for deconflicting aircraft, artillery, and missiles in the same airspace.


The need for the system came from the difficulty in executing the ATO in Operation DESERT STORM, which suffered from significant problems in interoperating between the Air Force and Navy. The goal was to combine, and improve upon, the functions of three existing systems:

  • Contingency Theater Automated Planning System (CTAPS), still under development
  • Wing Command and Control System
  • Combat Intelligence System

It was not a simple system to develop, and military systems engineers have noted a number of lessons learned. Among those was an ambitious, and perhaps idealized, project model that may not have recognized the realities of combat systems development, perhaps overemphasizing the role of a defense contractor in defining the approach under only general guidance.

Lockheed Martin (LM), was designated as the system integrator, with Total System Performance Responsibility (TSPR). The Air Force System Program Office (SPO) "was instructed to provide insight rather than oversight and in essence free LM to find its own path toward producing the system. Two aspects had an especially strong impact: the lack of a formal requirements baseline and the mandate to integrate components from multiple sources into an operational system"[2]

It is built around two data bases:

  • Air Operations Data Base
  • Intelligence Server Data System

which were based on different standards; these and other incompatibilities resulted in its first operational test, in 1999, failing.

In response, the SPO took responsibility for the technical integrity of the system. With LM help, the more realistic tests and reduced requirements allowed it to pass Multi-Service Operational Test and Evaluation (MOT&E) in July 2000 and be approved, in Version 1.0.1, for fielding. Before the full deployment, it was migrated from a UNIX system to a web-enabled PC based platform.

New development followed a spiral development model.


The fielded system operated successfully in Afghanistan and Iraq.