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Greetings Mission Planners,

The Mission Planners Users Conference (MPUC) is getting closer.  When you compare the weather here in DC with the weather in Las Vegas you can understand why.  Sixty two and sunny sounds pretty nice right now.  For those who're counting there's over 1,500 folks signed up for MPUC.  If you've made a reservation at the Flamingo and won't be attending you need to cancel one week prior to your arrival date to avoid being charged for one night's stay.

If you're coming to MPUC go to the website and signup for your classes.  There'll be classes that are oriented to different aircraft, MAJCOM and Services, but some classes are really "must attend" for everyone.  My recommended list includes:

PFPS 3.3 Differences - Covers the new features in PFPS 3.3 (released to Army/SOF) and 3.3.1 (coming to everyone)

TaskView 3.3.1 - New features coming in TaskView 3.3.1.  If you've been to "the show" (and who hasn't at this point) then you know that TaskView is an invaluable tool in deciphering a cryptic ATO document into lines on the screen and "plain English" mission taskings.

NGA Meetings - OK, I'm a sucker for discussing Geospatial Data.  If you want to learn about NGA's products, hear from the program managers (and let them hear from you) then you should attend.  I promise to throw a few tomatoes, but will also stand up to catch a few spears that are misdirected to towards the data producer (NGA) instead of at the folks who tell the producer what to produce (the Theater CINC's and Services)

If you do in depth threat planning then you should be attending the IMOM/MESA/FPTAS class.  If you want to monitor what's going on in the Battlespace on your FalconView screen then you need to attend the classified BirdDog class.  If you're interested in sensor prediction (what the target will like through your aircraft's targeting pod or other sensors) then you should be attending the classified IRTSS (InfraRed Targeting Simulation Software) class and the unclassified TAWS (Target Acquisition Weapons Software) class.  If you drop bombs then you should be attending the CWDS 10.1 class and if you care what happens when the bomb hits the ground (collateral damage) you should be attending the FAST-CD class.  In some cases the best thing you can do is tag along with a friend to a meeting of a totally different user community - you may be amazed at the things their software does (that would be of great use to you) or you may be able to help them find an answer to a problem that your community has already solved.  If you're interested in JMPS there will be familiarization classes and PC's in the demonstration area (TAFKATPZ - The Area Formerly Known As The Petting Zoo), 

Barry Roslin on NGA's Air Force Customer Support Team is still collecting issues that NGA can respond to at MPUC.  You won't get many open invitations like this to complain so tell Barry your problems with data currency (charts produced before Man walked on the Moon or CIB produced when there still was a functioning "Yugoslavia"), data coverage (everywhere except your Base/Training Range/NEO Site etc) or data distribution.

Mission Planning Tip: Handheld GPS AWE, Part 1 (Part 2, Part 3)

Handheld GPS units have become more and more prevalent within the military and civilian communities, but for many the usefulness of a GPS is severely limited.  A GPS Lat/Long readout is difficult to comprehend without the situational awareness provided by relative position information.  Relative position can be obtained by a range/bearing from a point, a crosstrack/distance to go along a route or by plotting a position on a "map".  Relative position on a map can be obtained by manually plotting on a hardcopy chart, using a moving map display (like FalconView or an embedded system) or on a simplistic stick map.  The design tradeoffs of a "handheld" GPS reduces the tools available for user input to a handful of buttons (PLGR/EPLGR/PLGR II) or similar interface (5 buttons and joystick toggle on my Garmin eTrex).  You can enter points and routes into a GPS directly, but the process would best be described as slow, tedious and painful.

Fortunately there is an alternative.  PFPS 3.2 (and beyond) include the "Handheld GPS AWE" as an installable accessory on the CD.  The Handheld GPS AWE was paid for by USSOCOM to support data transfer to SOF Handheld GPS units.  The AWE can load a wide range of commercial Garmin GPS's, PLGR (green and tan), PLGR II and (in 3.3.1) Magellan GPS's.  The Handheld GPS AWE can also load a data cartridge for the ASN128B Navigation System installed on the Army's UH-60A/L and CH-47D helicopters.  When you install the Handheld GPS AWE it adds a shortcut on the FalconView "Custom Toolbar":

In this case the Handheld GPS AWE ("GPS") appears on the Custom Toolbar next to the TaskView shortcut button.  You can also start the Handheld AWE from FalconView's "Tools" menu:

You can always find this shortcut in the Tools Menu, even if the Custom Toolbar is turned off.  Not sure how to turn the Custom Toolbar on or off?  Go to the "View" menu and check/uncheck "Custom Toolbar".

When you start the AWE you'll see a fairly standard (for a Tybrin AWE) toolbar:

You've got "Windows Standard" buttons to create a new "document" (GPS data load), Open a saved data load or save the data you've entered.  The "GPS" button lets you transfer data to/from the GPS (more on this later).  There are shortcut buttons to start CFPS and FalconView and a selection box for the Handheld GPS model you've got.  Clicking the dropdown lists the available GPS types:

If you have a Garmin GPS type that isn't listed you can try one of the other Garmins.  The different Garmin receivers have different system limitations (number of routes, number of waypoints, available waypoint icons) but they all transfer their Lat/Long positions in the same way.  To set a particular GPS as the default you can press the "Pref" button and enter your preferences:

You can have more than one saved set of Preferences - you may find yourself loading Garmin's and PLGR's from the same PC.

The Handheld GPS AWE helpfile includes specific help for connecting your GPS to the computer, but in all cases this involves connecting a cable to the GPS unit and the PC's serial port.  For Garmin GPS's you'll have to change the interface (Setup - Interface on my eTrex) to "Garmin" or "Garmin/Garmin".  If you've connected a GPS to FalconView to use as a moving map you know you have to set the GPS interface as "NMEA0183" to talk to FalconView - you'll have to set it to "Garmin" to transfer the other data back and forth.  After connecting the GPS, setting the GPS type in the Handheld AWE and setting the interface on the GPS press the "GPS" button on the buttonbar:

In the case of a Garmin GPS, the Handheld AWE will actually talk to the GPS and determine what software version is loaded.  Check the "Trackpoints"/"Waypoints/"Routes" boxes for the data you want to upload/download and press the "Download" (from the GPS) or "Upload" (to the GPS) button.  If you choose to download information from the GPS you'll receive the following warning:

If you've entered any other data into the Handheld AWE (such as waypoints or routes) it will be overwritten by the data you're going to download from the GPS.  If you haven't entered any data yet in the AWE this isn't an issue.  As the data is downloaded you'll see a progress box counting along with the data transferred:

After the data transfer is complete the selected data from the GPS will now be in the Handheld AWE (it's still in the GPS - downloading data doesn't remove it from the GPS's memory).

You can add points to the Waypoint list in several ways.  If the point is available in PFPS as a DAFIF Point (like an Airfield, Navaid etc) or as a local point you can scroll to the bottom of the Waypoint list and enter the Fix/Point:

You can select a point grapically in FalconView by clicking the "Get Point From FV" button:

Once in FalconView you can click on the map as many times as you want - each click transfers that points Lat/Long/Elevation to the Handheld GPS AWE as a Waypoint:

In the case above I've added a waypoint at the front gate to Hurlburt Field.  The default pointname is "UP" but I can easily change that to "Gate" or "HRT Gate".  You'll be limited to the number of Waypoints (and routes) that your GPS will support.  My eTrex Venture will accept 500 waypoints and 20 routes with 50 waypoints each.  If you're unsure of your Garmin's limitations you can find them here

After you've downloaded Waypoints from your GPS you can display them on the FalconView map.  Press the "Display Points" button:

 

You'll see the Waypoints you marked with your GPS displayed on the FalconView map.

Continued at: Handheld GPS AWE, Part 2

Paul