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Greetings Mission Planners,

Well in spite of what you might think, I'm alive and well and living in Washington DC.  Unfortunately between work, school and a modicum of a private life I've had a difficult time getting any news out to the masses.  I'll try to do better, and welcome anyone who can help!

Obviously the biggest news out there is the release of PFPS 3.3.1 and PFPS 4.0.  That's right, while the Air Force and Navy are busy working to get 3.3.1 out to the field SOF has already leap frogged them by completing testing of PFPS 4.0.  So do you need PFPS 3.3.1 or 4.0?  The answer is "yes".  If you're stuck with an AWE to load an aircraft that isn't compatible with 4.0 then you'd better stick with 3.3.1, but if you don't load a data cartridge then you definitely want to get your hands on a copy of 4.0 since it goes a long way to address some of the most common complaints out there.  Even better, SOF should be fielding a "service patch" within a few months that will add the ability to display VVOD (Vector Vertical Obstruction Database) on any map or image.  Automatic calculation of MSA and ESA will follow in PFPS 4.1.

That's right, PFPS 4.1.  As usual, reports of the demise of PFPS have been greatly exaggerated.  For all of you who've looked at products like Google Earth and asked why we don't have capabilities like that, just wait for 4.1.  Hopefully you'll be along for the ride as the Premier Mission Planning System continues to deliver the capabilities that you want.  

If you've gone to install PFPS 3.3.1 you've probably realized that the process takes much longer than it did with PFPS 3.3 and earlier releases.  When you install PFPS you also get a security inspection on your PC and network that can take a long time - like 30 minutes.  While this is going on you'll be getting no feedback on the process and the Windows Task Manager will show the installation as "Not Responding".  Believe me, the installation is continuing, but an infinitesimal pace.  The best advice is that once the installation has started you should click through the initial settings then go get lunch.  By the time you get back the installation should have finished.  One trick to speed up the installation is to disconnect the PC from any networks (wired or wireless) before starting. 

As for NGA, the big news is that General Clapper will be departing in June.  I'm not sure of the exact procedures to apply for his position.  In smaller NGA leadership news, BGen Dale Waters has retired from his position as Military Executive and Director for Military Support and Operations.  His replacement is BGen Michael Planert, a SOF Helo pilot. 

The latest version of Excel2FV is dated 1 December 2005 and includes several small fixes - most notably (in light of current operations) the ability to import the C2PC MOOTW symbols from a mgc file.

Mission Planning Tip: FalconView Track/Orbits Tool

Before getting into the Track/Orbit tool I'd like to point out a new feature in FalconView that's also related to refueling tracks.  FalconView 3.3.1 now uses information in DAFIF that defines the boundaries of a track's anchor airspace.  When you turn on a refueling route you'll see the boundaries, that is if the boundaries are defined:

One of the features that has often been asked for in FalconView is an easy way to draw an orbit, i.e. something that looks like the refueling track above. Unfortunately before 3.3.1 there was no way to create something like that.  TaskView does it, but uses a bunch of teeny tiny lines.  In 3.3.1 you've finally got a Track/Orbit tool, and one that does a lot more than just draw an orbit on the map.  The Track/Orbit tool is started from the Editor Toolbar or from the FalconView "Tools" Menu:

Not surprisingly, the Track/Orbit button looks like an orbit.  Launching the tool brings up a Track/Edit Toolbar on the right hand side of the FalconView Window:

The top button (the one pressed above) allows you to select an existing Track/Orbit to edit.  The next button lets you create a linear refueling "track" and the button below lets you create a refueling "orbit".  What's the difference between a track and an orbit?  A track starts at one point and ends in another while an orbit consists of two linear segments with half circles at each end.  We'll start with the orbit button first, since that's what people have been asking for the longest.  To create an orbit just press the button then "drag" out your orbit on the map. 

The point closest to the mouse cursor when you release the mouse will be the anchor point.  When you release the mouse a form will appear for additional information about the orbit.  You're not required to fill in any of this information, and the values can be changed later.  If you want to change an orbit's width you'll need to do it here!

You can move an orbit by putting your mouse cursor over the orbit's lines and dragging it to the location you want.  Putting your cursor over an orbit point and holding down the left mouse button lets you rotate the orbit:

Pointing to an orbit point and right clicking lets you edit orbit and point properties:

The "Edit Orbit Info" choice will bring back the "Edit Orbit" window shown above (same one you get when you first create an orbit).  Editing a Point's info brings up a form to (not surprisingly) change a point's information:

The "Info" tab will be visible for all Orbit points.  This form lets you assign additional orbit point types to a particular point.  The point types are Control, Entry, Exit, Initial, Nav Check, Anchor Pattern and Anchor.  You can also enter a reference Navaid ID in the "Cross Reference" field to calculate a range and bearing from that Navaid.  This will not move the point to the exact match for that radial/DME, but will calculate the closest radial/DME fix from the Navaid you provide to the precise Lat/Long that defines the point's location.  The location tab is only visible for the Anchor Point, since it's that location (along with the width and length of the track) that defines the other points:

The Fix/Point field on the "Location" tab is different than the one on the "Info" tab.  Changes made here will change the Lat/Long that define the orbit. 

The "Track" button on the Track/Orbit Toolbar creates linear tracks and operates like the Orbit button does:

The "Point Tool" (button that looks like a red square) on the Track/Orbit toolbar lets you add additional points to an Orbit that aren't on the actual orbit.  The most common example is an entry or exit point.  On the DAFIF refueling track AR601 at the top of this article you'll note the entry and exit points for the orbit aren't located on the orbit itself, rather they're on the track's airspace boundaries. 

You can save and reopen FalconView Track/Orbit files just as you would any other file.  The files have a .uar extension (an earlier proposed name was "User AR Tool").  Once you've defined your tracks and orbits you can easily use them when you're creating a new route in FalconView.  Turnpoints can "snap" to the points on the tracks and orbits just as they can snap to local points or DAFIF Navaids or DAFIF refueling tracks.  Using the "Tracks" side of things you'll be able to easily define your standard routes and snap to those points when you're working on a new mission.  Sure, the Track/Orbits segments have a lot of additional fields for "Scheduling Unit" and APX-78 frequencies, but there's no requirement to use that stuff.  The tool works just as well for normal tracks and orbits as it does for refueling tracks and orbits - hence the name change away from "User AR Tool." 

Enjoy your tracks and orbits.  They've been a long time coming!