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Greetings Mission Planners,

If you're interested in avoiding the MANPAD threat (and who isn't these days) you need to use FPTAS - Flight Path Threat Analysis Simulation Tool.  FPTAS is produced by the Missile and Space Intelligence Center (MSIC) and lets you analyze your zones of vulnerability in an objective area based on your aircraft's thermal characteristics and threat system performance.  FPTAS uses FalconView DTED and gets your route directly from PFPS.  FPTAS displays on the FalconView map.  FPTAS can't make you invulnerable to MANPAD's, but it can help determine what ingress/egress option minimizes risk and place your "zones of vulnerability" within the secured perimeter.  FPTAS is unclassified but without the classified aircraft and threat parametrics you can't do much.  Download FPTAS with the necessary parametric files on the SIPRNET at: www.MSIC.dia.smil.mil/ms_home_pages/FPTAS/index.html.  FPTAS works with PFPS 3.2 or PFPS 3.3.  FPTAS can even create a 3D video to demonstrate your vulnerable zones in the objective area.

NIMA will be holding an inaugural Advanced Navigation Systems Support Conference from 13-15 January in Arnold and St. Louis Missouri.  As our weapon systems become more accurate its become essential for everyone to use the same spheres of reference (WGS 84, EGM 96, HAE etc.) and understand the limits of our existing models.  If you're involved with system development and are very concerned with your error budget then you probably need to have a representative present.  More details are available at: http://earth-info.nima.mil/GandG/sathtml/NIMAconf_home.html

Cambridge Research Associates, the developer of PowerScene, has filed for Bankruptcy on October 30th under Chapter 11.  Court Papers listed assets of one million dollars and liabilities of over six million dollars.

Col Bill Nelson, the Director of ESC's Mission Planning Systems discusses the Synchronized Air Power Management (SAPM) initiative on Air Force Link at: http://www.af.mil/stories/story.asp?storyID=123006065.  You'll see some of the capabilities of SAPM in February at the Mission Planners Users Conference (MPUC) in Las Vegas.  SAPM uses "Web Services" (new internet buzzword) to put the information you need inside your application instead of forcing you to go to another $@#~* webpage.

Speaking of MPUC, last time I provided a link to the registration page that didn't work.  To register just go to the Mission Planning System Support Facility (MPSSF) web page and click on the MPUC link.  https://mpssf.hill.af.mil/

For those of you who wonder what I really do, you can go to http://www.defensenews.com/conferences/isr1103/2405779.html and find out.  No, I didn't give the speech but I did flip the PowerPoint.  Unfortunately this writeup left out the major part that AF/XOIRY and NIMA played in getting data to folks in the field during OIF.

On a more "down to earth" front, NIMA has posted their new DAFIF and EChum.  DAFIF is available at https://164.214.2.62/products/digitalaero/index.cfm.  If you look closely you'll see "test" links that download zip archives that contain all the files needed to update PFPS.  The same link downloads "Raw" DAFIF for PFPS 3.2 and 3.3 but because they import their data slightly differently you can't share processed DAFIF between 3.2 and 3.3 machines.  The December EChum is available at http://164.214.2.62/products/webchum/InitQueryFrame.cfm.  You can also download .pdf versions of the real "CHUM Books" if you so desire.  NIMA has proposed eliminating CHUM Book distribution sometime next year so make sure you revise your regs/documents that say "CHUM Books must be available" to read "CHUM data must be available".

Finally SOF is fielding PFPS 3.3 to all their units, PFPS 3.3.1 should enter Developmental Test shortly and PFPS 4.0 should finish initial development by April 2004.  That's more than enough news...

Mission Planning Tip: Vector Product Format

This is one of those long winded tips that provides a lot of background information but doesn't really tell you how to do anything.  Why go off on a tangent?  I'm planning to discuss FalconView's support for Vector Product Format (VPF) products over the next few weeks and want to provide a background on how VPF came to be, what data is available in VPF format and what we can expect from VPF.  The information I have about the early days of VPF is all second hand and I'll be happy to add any details or corrections anyone has.

DMA (pre 1996), NIMA (pre 200x) and NGA (National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency) have recognized the weaknesses of our paper mapping process.  Paper charts are costly to maintain, print and distribute, are "out of date" the day after they're sent to be printed and are inherently noncustomizable.  As an example, the NAVPLAN series of charts contain aeronautical features (Airspace Boundaries, Navaid locations/frequencies, Off Route Clearance Altitudes etc.) that are of no interest (and are actually distracting) to non aviators.  Not coincidentally, the TLM Charts (designed for ground navigation) lack key features (Lat/Long Grid, Obstructions, elevations in feet etc.) that the aviation community would like to see.  What's needed is to distribute the information that underlies the traditional paper charts directly to the end user so they can create a product that is both current and customized to match their exact needs.  Combining information from a "National Geospatial Database" with unique planning information (planned route, known threat locations etc.) produces a custom product that perfectly matches your needs. 

The first VPF standard was published in 1992.  Like the Raster Product Format (RPF) standard, the VPF standard doesn't describe a single product, rather it provides a standard data format for other products to use.  A similar example in day to day life is the Compact Disc.  The Compact Disc defines a  media used to distribute data but only CD's that comply with the more restrictive "Red Book" standard can be played in a normal audio CD Player.  

The first VPF product was the Digital Chart of the World or DCW also published in 1992.  DCW was compiled by NIMA from existing 1:1,000,000 charts, i.e. ONC's.  In most cases this meant someone manually tracing features from an ONC to add the feature to a digital database.  Although DCW was discontinued in 1997 it survives on the internet at sites such as http://ortelius.maproom.psu.edu/dcw/.

DCW was replaced in 1995 with the "VMap" or "Vector Map" series of products.  The VMap series  includes VMap Level 0 (VMap0) derived from 1:1,000,000 scale charts (like DCW), VMap Level 1 (VMap1) derived from 1:250K charts, VMap Level2 (VMap2) derived from TLM (1:50K and 1:100K) charts and Urban Vector Map (UVMap) derived from City Graphics.  NIMA has released worldwide coverage of VMap0 and a large portion of VMap1 on the Internet.  NIMA worked with the Navy to develop the Digital Nautical Chart (DNC) specification to digitize existing hydro charts.  Unlike VMap CD's (which include a single "chart" resolution) the 29 DNC CD's provide vector versions of hydro charts at all available resolutions over a region.  It wasn't enough to have the same data in each application if everyone displayed it differently.  One great thing about a digital raster product is it looks pretty much the same no matter what system displays it.  The GeoSym standard was developed to provide a standard of symbolization so a "road looks like a road" and "an airport looks like an airport" no matter what system you're using. 

Two problems with VMap and DNC were the accuracy and resolution.  Because the products were derived from paper maps (cardo derived) they were (at best) only as accurate as the original paper map.  Paper maps have varying degrees of accuracy but all were created by a human who worked to make the chart look good and be easily legible.  One of the ways a cartographer makes a chart look "right" is to move different elements by a small amount to declutter an area.  For example you may have a road and a railroad right beside a river in a valley but if you placed all the elements in their "exact" location all you'd have is a mess with the river, road and railroad appearing on top of each other at each scale.  Each VMap/DNC product was designed to look right at the scale corresponding to the original paper chart.  This meant that you needed each VMap series for complete coverage.  This wastes storage space at the user end and waste's production effort at NIMA's end.  Instead of a unified database you had a multitude of databases.  A road along a harbor could appear in VMap0, VMap1, A Coastal DNC Chart, a Harbor DNC chart etc. with no guarantee that the road was represented identically in each product.

NIMA's experience with VMap and DNC led to the development of the Feature Foundation Data (FFD) standard.  Unlike earlier efforts, FFD is derived from imagery and a single unified database covers a given geographic area.  The data density and resolution will depend on the national level of interest.  FFD is designed for rapid "densification" so a region of low interest/low resolution can be enhanced when a region comes up on the "scope" either do to operational concerns or training needs.

So how does this all relate to Mission Planning?  FalconView 3.2 and 3.3 can display VMap0, VMap1 and DNC as a background map or as an overlay on a raster chart/image.  While VPF has some limitations, you can get the data and use it effectively today.  Next time I'll talk about VMap Level 0 and how you can use it as an alternative to the (very) dated FalconView Vector Map.  You can download VMap0 on the public internet from:

North America Data Set: http://geoengine.nima.mil/ftpdir/archive/vpf_data/v0noa.tar.gz

South America/Africa Data Set: http://geoengine.nima.mil/ftpdir/archive/vpf_data/v0soa.tar.gz

Europe Data Set: http://geoengine.nima.mil/ftpdir/archive/vpf_data/v0eur.tar.gz

Asia/Oceania Dataset: http://geoengine.nima.mil/ftpdir/archive/vpf_data/v0sas.tar.gz

To give you an idea of why this should be of interest to you I've got two screenshots from FalconView using the data downloaded above.  One shows a unified Germany without the Berlin Air Corridors and the other shows Northern Afghanistan and all its neighbors.  No USSR in sight...

 

Paul