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Belated Greetings Mission Planners,

Some things just seem to take more time in the summer and getting this tip out is one of them.  Once the leaves start to turn you can expect me to pick up the pace.

Lots of news to report this week.  First up is this story on the AF Homepage about "Gridlock" and it's use out at JEFX (Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment) 2004.  Jeff Rauscher, one of our AF/XOIRY "All Stars" gets a lot of press as he discusses how Gridlock can deliver "JDAM Quality" coordinates quickly from tactical (Predator, Global Hawk, U-2 etc.) imagery.  Gridlock won't cure cancer or the common cold, but it can reduce the "thumb twiddling time" between seeing a target and putting a high explosive device 3 feet away.  JEFX is an AF Exercise and Jeff works for HQ USAF but Gridlock is an NGA technology demonstration program (as was discussed in last September's  NIMA Pathfinder)  and is applicable to all the Services.  Gridlock is also discussed in Geointelligence Magazine.  

For those of you interested in the Air Force Academy, the Air Force Reserve or just want to read more of my quotes you'll find me and Mike Miller in the most recent issue of Citizen Airman.  So far no groupies have contacted me, but I'm standing by.

Thailand has signed a contract for an imagery satellite with 2 meter resolution.  THEOS (Thailand Earth Observation System) will be assembled in France by EADS.  

Very sad news from Utah where Melanie Spreeman was killed last weekend.  Melanie worked at the SSF and if you were at MPUC in Las Vegas you likely met her as one of the "girls behind the counter".  Melanie's Obit describes her as a "brilliant ray of light" and she was full of all the joy and enthusiasm you'd expect from someone who'd just celebrated her 24th birthday.  In lieu of flowers the family has requested donations be sent to the Wasatch Humane Society, 880 S 500 W, Woods Cross UT 84010. 

Mission Planning Tip: TaskView 3.3.1, What's New?

In early May a problem was discovered with route altitudes generated by TaskView.  Although this problem was found during a PFPS 3.3.1 test a quick review confirmed the problem existed in earlier TaskView versions.  Because of the seriousness of the problem a fix was needed ASAP.  The problem was fixed and a decision was made to address the problem in the field by completing TaskView 3.3.1's testing cycle and fielding it prior to the rest of PFPS 3.3.1 .  This "asynchronous" TaskView fielding isn't unusual.  TaskView 3.2 and 3.3 were fielded ahead of their PFPS versions in response to the real world needs demonstrated in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). 

Fixing the altitude error drove TaskView 3.3.1's early fielding, but that won't be the feature that gets people excited.  The biggest difference will come in 3.3.1's ability to open multiple ATO, ACO and change files simultaneously.

TaskView's was originally designed to open one ATO and one ACO at a time.  That's the way it was at Red Flag and in most "real world" deployments like Operation Northern Watch (ONW) and Operation Southern Watch (OSW).  Once Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) kicked off it became obvious that this design limitation was a big problem.  An Air Operations Center (AOC) targeting time sensitive targets can pump out ATO and ACO changes like nobody's business.  With TaskView 3.1 you had  to open each change in a separate TaskView instance.  "Sucky" would be a nice description.  TaskView 3.2 allowed ATO changes to be opened along with a base ATO, but still couldn't open ACO changes.  Fielding was accelerated to early 2002 - too late for the "hot and heavy" portion of OEF, but still appreciated during Operation Anaconda and the other operations that continued across Afghanistan and Iraq.  TaskView 3.3 was fielded as Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) began.  TaskView 3.3 allowed ATO/ACO base documents and ATO/ACO changes to be opened, but you had to open each individually and in the correct order.  If you inadvertently skipped a change you had no choice except to restart TaskView and open all the files from the beginning:

TaskView 3.3.1 changes the way you open your  files.  Under the File menu there are no longer separate items to open ATO's, ACO's, ATO changes and ACO changes.  Instead there's one choice to Open and one choice to Open Updates:


You can now open ATO and ACO files simultaneously:

Even more important, you can open the base documents along with all the changes.  This may not seem like a big deal, but if you've sat in front of TaskView and selected File - Open 15 (or more!) times you'll know what a big difference this makes.  File - Open closes any open ATO's and ACO's before opening the selected files and File - Open Updates... adds the selected  files "on top" of  the open ATO and ACO's.  TaskView is smart enough to determine what order the files should be opened.  If TaskView can't determine the order it'll ask you.

Another change in TV 3.3.1 is the ATO/ACO default file location.  Instead of a "TaskView" folder the files are stored in a more appropriately named "\PFPS\Data\ATO_ACO\" folder.  There is nothing specifically "TaskView" about raw ATO/ACO files so the new name is more appropriate.

Another nice addition is the ability to open ATO's and ACO's by dragging and dropping them onto TaskView.  Remember that double clicking on an .ato or .aco file will open it in a new TaskView window.  You can end up with a lot of "TaskView's", when all you wanted was to open the files in the TaskView window that's already running.  Dragging and dropping avoids this problem.   

TaskView's DAFIF airfield lookup is much improved.  Most airfields in the ATO are listed by ICAO identifier.  Before TV 3.3.1 an ATO DAFIF airfield lookup (when turned on) would look up each ICAO for each mission.  For example if a three ship of A-10's was fragged from Bagram AB then TaskView would look up the ICAO (OAIX) three times.  This worked fine for "Training" ATO's with a handful of missions, but caused TaskView to "lock up" for with real world ATO's.  TV3.3.1 fixes this problem by caching ICAO locations as it finds them in DAFIF.  If a base has twenty missions then TV3.3.1 performs one lookup, not twenty.  This changes DAFIF lookup from almost unusable to pretty painless.  The only units that have to be included  in the laydown.dat file are ones that aren't at an ICAO airfield. 

If a TaskView 3.3 departure/arrival location wasn't found then none of the mission was plotted but TaskView 3.3.1 plots any segment it can.  For example a mission taking off from an unknown (by TaskView) location, going to an Air Refueling (AR) track, hitting a target and returning to base will be plotted as a line from the AR track to the target (the only segment it knows both endpoints for). 

One of the biggest annoyances people had with TaskView 3.2 and 3.3 was the way it drew AR tracks as boxes instead of "orbits".  Through some fancy footwork the pretty orbits have now returned:

There are plenty more changes that aren't listed above, but this should get Air Force users motivated to download and install the newest version of TaskView.  If you're a registered user then go forth and download it from the MPSSF's website.

Next time I'll try to "start at the beginning" and explain how to get the ATO and ACO and how to use it in TaskView.