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Greetings Mission Planners,

There's a new version of Excel2FV posted at http://www.mission-planning.com.  I've fixed a problem with the Map Path Scrubber as well as a few other things that have slipped my mind.

Well here in the CONUS (Continental United States for all you foreign types) the big focus has been on our two recent hurricanes.  Where can you get information to use in Mission Planning?  Glad you asked...

A great site to get information to brief or just get general SA is the Navy's tropical weather Shapefile site at http://www.nlmoc.navy.mil/cgi-bin/listing.pl?cen+shapefiles+tropical+Tropical_Shape_Files.  Sure you can look at a generalized map on a website, but wouldn't you really rather see the path of the hurricane on the maps you already know?  The site includes worldwide tropical Shapefiles so it isn't just for those of use in the USA.

If you're looking for good vector data to add to your map and you're in the USA you can download the "raw" Shapefiles that are used in the National Atlas from http://nationalatlas.gov/atlasftp.html.  Civilian authorities are concerned with things like county boundaries, roads and city locations.  If you're using WinZip be sure to turn off "TAR file smart CR/LF conversion".  With many/most files this causes the files to be unusable.  

Combine it with your existing maps and you can produce something like this:

Another good source of vector information is NGA's Vector Smart Map, both VMAP0 and VMAP1.  PFPS 3.2 and beyond support VMAP as a both a background map and as an overlay on top of another map or image.

Now what about new imagery?  There's already some NGA produced CIB covering the areas affected and the Air Force is working to convert existing USGS Digital Ortho Quads (DOQs) into 1 Meter CIB over the coasts. This can help provide the "before" imagery.  

There's several sources for "after" imagery.  NGA had just stood up their unclassified Web-based Access and Retrieval Portal (WARP) shortly before Katrina arrived:

The Unclassified National Information Library (UNIL) Phase I is operational. UNIL is an archive capability for ClearView, NITF 2.0, domestic and non-domestic Commercial Remote Sensing (CRS) data. UNIL is also sending CRS data to the Secret/Collateral (S/C) NIL for users with access to that archive.

The Web-Based Access and Retrieval Portal (WARP), known at the unclassified level as WARP-UNIL, is also operational. WARP-UNIL provides an on-line access and retrieval capability via the World-Wide Web, NIPRNET, or the NGA Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) network. The URL for WARP-UNIL is: https://warp.nga.mil. Users may register at the WARP-UNIL website and receive a login and password using a .mil or .gov email extension.

The Commercial Satellite Imagery Library (CSIL) remains operational for its customer base.

Using WARP you can download current, commercial satellite imagery with resolutions of 1 Meter or better directly to your PC.  You'll need an account and many of these files are very big.  You'd best judge your available bandwidth and only try to download image "chips" (a subsection of an image) if you find that you're bandwidth impaired.  On the plus side, if you've got an account you can also log on at home and download overnight - many find they have better bandwidth at their house than at work.  Up until a few weeks ago you would have been limited to downloading imagery in the NITF format (works with FalconView 4.x, but not any fielded versions) but fortunately NGA has implemented a converter to translate from NITF to GeoTiff.  That means you can use the imagery inside FalconView today.  On the unfortunate side, the GeoTiff converter is only implemented as a temporary feature and is at risk of being pulled after 90 days.

NGA has also stood up another imagery site at http://www.katrinaimagery.org/.  I don't have an account so can't tell you much more than that.  Unlike the UNIL/WARP combination, the http://www.katrinaimagery.org/ site is designed for use by folks outside the military community as well.  One nice feature is that it also supports streaming imagery, i.e. geospatial roaming somewhat like Google Maps or Microsoft's Virtual Earth.  

USGS has stood up websites for Hurricane Katrina imagery and Hurricane Rita Imagery.  You'll need to be a government responder and establish an account to gain access.

If you use Google Earth then check out all the updated imagery that's available there.  This imagery shows the break in the New Orleans' 17th street canal:

This is not the highest resolution available.  I wanted to show the entire break.  Google Earth only shows overlaid imagery on part of the screen, so the color imagery you see on the right is before Katrina.  I'm sure it will warm your heart to know we're working to integrate the type of imagery and functionality you see in Google Earth into PFPS and FalconView.

Finally, the Air Force's Eagle Vision program has stood up and FTP site for access to commercial imagery collected after the Hurricanes that has been converted into GeoTiff format.  If you need access let me know and I'll put you in touch with the right people. 

MP Tip: PFPS 3.3.1 Turns

The tip below comes to use courtesy of the Royal Australian Air Force's Mission Planning Office.  Its taught me a thing or two about the new turn types available in PFPS 3.3 and 3.3.1.  Thanks for your support!

With the release of PFPS 3.3.1, a whole raft of capabilities that were introduced to the US Army and SOF users in PFPS 3.3 are now available to the rest of us. For this tip, we'll go over turns in general and look at the new capabilities for planning beyond the basic bank angle limitations.

You're likely familiar with the basic turn at a waypoint which changes the direction immediately to the next waypoint. This can be refined with the introduction of a bank angle to use by entering the corresponding number (1 89) into the bank field within CFPS. 

Of course it can also be set as a premission criteria in CFPS Administration under Aircraft - Limits:

or separately through the point editor. 

Here we have a route entering from the left of the screen, flying over the point and turning south with a bank of 30:




Turns are by default made in the shortest direction; this can be varied by forcing the system to take the turn in the way you choose, such as a bank of 30 going left 30L:



For those users that are quicker than some, we can also use a G value (1 9) for the turn rather than specifying the bank angle. The 1G turn below is made in the shortest direction once again: 


A G value turn can also combined with a direction specification such as using 1GL to force the turn to the left:

If you're more interested in passenger comfort, PFPS 3.3.1 caters for the nice smooth instrument turns at the standard rate (or rate 1 depending on the school you attended) by entering F in the bank field.



The poor cousin Mr Half Rate is not ignored; and like the full version, it can be combined once again with a direction of turn using HL as in the example below:



Another new turn type is the fixed radius, which is defined in CFPS with an R and then the radius in NM. As with all turns that require the bank to be calculated, the result of this calculation is shown in the calculated bank field (strangely enough) to enable users to achieve the required result in flight.  The default direction for a radius turn is the shortest, but, as in the other examples, this turn may be forced to turn the direction specified by the user.

Now to get into some of the fancy stuff.  PFPS 3.2 and beyond let you specify S turns to achieve a required intercept to the next course. By using the entry of 5S45 in the bank field, the route passes over the waypoint, enters a 5 degree bank angle ("5") and rolls out on an intercept angle of 45 degrees ("S45") with the course to next desired waypoint:



These turns are fine for most flying, however, if we want to represent actual flight under visual conditions a new turn type can be used. PFPS 3.3 improved the lead turn which reflects the practice of cutting a corner rather than flying directly over a waypoint. Before if you used a lead turn  (25T) you had to use a fixed bank angle and the timing/distance calculations were based on the actual start of the turn (turn roll in point in the picture below).  Now you can use standard bank angles and have the timing/distance calculated to the apex of the turn - even if you never plan to actually reach that "turn point" Lat/Long.  To achieve this, a turn of less than 110 degrees is refined using a half rate turn and a 45 degree intercept to the course as an automated S turn. 



If the course change is greater than 110 degrees then cutting the corner with 45 degree intercepts would result in a turn a great distance from the actual waypoint, making the point navigationally redundant. When this happens PFPS uses a basic or square turn in the shortest direction. A mission planner can use other combinations of turns to represent the actual flight if such a course change is required.

For course changes of less than 45 degrees, there is very little benefit in cutting the corner and PFPS will simply treat it as a basic turn.

To use a lead turn enter "LT ON" in the CFPS bank field:



Here's a LT ON for a 90 degree course change.



A partner for the lead turn on is the lead turn off, which uses the same criteria for the 45 degree intercept to the next course - but the corner isn't cut. This works when the distance to the next point is greater than 5NM. Less than that and all bets are off, and the basic turn applies.

Of course for a demo I've used a LT OFF with ample distance:



You can also enter any of these turn types as your default in PFPS System Admin, i.e. you can enter "LT ON" or "25T" as your default bank angle.

So Mission Planners, over to you. Give these turns a try in PFPS and see what you can come up with.

The final two images show representations of approaches into a very nice city, and are great for briefings and rehearsals.



Well, thats the end of my turn.

If you guys think its any good, maybe I will come back with some more tips from Down Under.

Cheers.