There is a long list of new ground-based optical telescopes being considered around the world. While many are conventional Cassegrain and Ritchey-Chretien designs, some are from a family of three mirror anastigmatic (TMA) telescopes that are configured with an offset field (but still obscured) that trace back to designs developed in the 1970s for military applications. The nodal theory of aberrations, developed in the late 1970s, provides valuable insights into the response of TMA telescopes to alignment errors. Here it is shown for the first time that the alignment limiting aberration in any TMA telescope is a 3rd order astigmatism term with a new field dependence, termed field-asymmetric, field-linear 3rd order astigmatism. It is also shown that a TMA telescope under assembly that is only measured to have excellent/perfect performance onaxis is not aligned in any significant way. This is because the new astigmatic term is always zero on-axis, even though it is large over the field of view. Knowledge of this intrinsic misalignment aberration field for any TMA telescope aids greatly in ensuring it can be aligned successfully. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), is used an example of a relevant TMA system.© (2008) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.