Pablo's Mission Planning Website
Greetings Mission Planners,
Lots of new stuff on the NGA website. The first NGA issue of Pathfinder is available here. A lot of this issue focuses on the transition from NIMA to NGA and what that means. January EChum is available here and the DAFIF that becomes effective on Christmas day is available here. You can download the the files you need to update PFPS 3.2/3.3's DAFIF "prezipped" from NGA's DAFIF website or just click on this link.
The Eglin Mission Planning Website had been down for repairs but has returned to operation. The newest PFPS 3.3.1 Beta (#9) has been posted for testers to download.
Barry Roslin from the NGA Air Force Customer Support Team is requesting folks who NGA questions for the Mission Planning User's Conference to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your questions will help NGA prepare detailed answers before you arrive in Las Vegas - especially for common concerns. Barry's looking for problems you're having with NGA but if there are areas where you've been especially satisfied (declassifying 1M CIB, providing TLM Update Discs and "1 click" downloads for DAFIF data come to mind) let him know that too. Don't be afraid to toss spears - NGA can't fix problems they don't know about.
Mission Planning Tip: Digital Nautical Chart
PFPS has largely focused on the aeronautical (DAFIF) and surface (CADRG, DTED, CIB) datasets but NGA also produces a wide range of maritime products. Several years ago the Navigator of the Navy launched an aggressive program to digitize the Navy and move to a vector database of maritime features. The result is NGA's Digital Nautical Chart or DNC.
NGA's hydro charts have always been fundamentally different from the other charts due to the maritime environment. The Hydro library contains extremely detailed charts of harbor areas, semi detailed charts of shorelines and broad area coverage of open water with little detail. This shouldn't be a surprise - once you're away from the shore the water is a more homogenous environment than land. This same methodology extends to the DNC. DNC General provides broad area coverage of all water. The level of detail is approximately equivalent to a 1:500K or 1:1M scale map.
DNC Coastal provides a more detailed (but still general) coverage of coastal areas. The level of detail is approximately equivalent to a 1:250K map.
DNC Approach provides detailed coverage of the approach to harbors. The level of detail is approximately equal to a 1:50K or 1:100K map.
DNC Harbor provides highly detailed coverage of harbor areas. The level of detail is approximately equal to a City Graphic and you can think of it as a cross between a City Graphic and an Aeronautical IFR Approach Plate. A Harbor chart has to get a boat captain to the dock the same way an approach chart gets an aircraft out of the clouds and onto the ground.
In some ways the DNC program takes the Surface Navy the furthest from paper charts but in other ways they're tied more closely to paper charts than other digital product users. DNC's are produced from paper charts, i.e. DNC is to Hydro Charts as VMap is to Paper topographic charts, but VMap loses its association to the source chart - DNC doesn't. When you download DNC 's from the NGA DNC Website you download each chart individually. There's nothing comparable in CADRG or VMap. Even worse there is no single data source (like EChum) that updates all the DNC's. Instead you download an update (VDU - VPF Database Update) for each DNC library (not each DNC CD, each DNC). For the DNC covering the Gulf of Mexico (DNC15) this means you could have up to 89 downloads. Each patch is applied individually at the DOS Command Line.
So who should care? If you don't have a boat then you don't have to worry about DNC. If you have a boat and are aware of NGA's caveat that DNC is only authorized for Government use then you'll find DNC very useful. If you have DNC CD's they'll contain all the DNC's over a region - it's like having a disc that contained VMap0, VMap1, VMap2 and UVMap over a geographic area. Downloading DNC's for use in FalconView is a pain - again you have to download each zipped DNC library individually. Unzip the DNC files in your data directory into a "VPF" folder. When you unzip the files they should create a folder with the DNC disc name as shown below:
Displaying DNC's is similar to displaying VMap. Add the DNC map data path using the Map Data Manager and select Digital Nautical Chart in the Map Menu:
You can control the DNC Map Options just as you can control the VMap Options:
Of course you can use a DNC as an overlay just like VMap. More on that next time.