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Combining intelligence
Senior Airman Josh Miller, Air Forces Central/Air Force Forces A6 Division software engineer, discusses how to combine intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance planning capabilities with Stephen Harrison and David Greeley in a combined air operations center in an area of responsibility in fall 2009. Mr. Harrison and Mr. Greeley are MITRE software developers and members of the Airspace Mission Planning Division's Advanced Development Team. (Courtesy photo)
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ESC teams with warfighters to bring improved capabilities to the field

Posted 11/9/2010   Updated 11/9/2010 Email story   Print story


by Patty Welsh
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

11/9/2010 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Warfighters will soon have a more complete view of their battlespace with the planned November release of the newest version of an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance planning and management tool.

Known as EMPIRE-A, the Evolved Mission Planning Interface to Raise Enterprise-level Awareness, it provides comprehensive situational awareness of key assets and related data.

"EMPIRE-A allows a team in a CAOC [Combined Air Operations Center] to look at all theater assets collecting full motion video and decide how to best manage task requests," said Capt. Casandra Wolak, the Airspace Mission Planning Division's Advanced Development Team lead.

The system is a combination of two existing capabilities, the Mission Planning Warehouse, or MPW, and the ISR Tasking, Execution, Monitoring and Post Analysis Link, or TEMPAL.

"We knew we wanted to focus on ISR enterprise-level data-sharing to improve the situational awareness needed to aid more effective collection and battlespace management," said Hassan Terry, a MITRE mission planning and intelligence subject matter expert and member of the Advanced Development Team.

A prototype of the MPW was first exhibited operationally during the U.S. Joint Forces Command-led Empire Challenge '09.

After achieving excellent results at the demonstration, the team had a chance to discuss MPW and its practical application to ISR planning with Capt. Jamieson Pierce, a deployed Electronic Systems Center member serving as a senior intelligence duty officer in a CAOC.

During their discussions, Captain Pierce told the team about a capability the CAOC combat coders had created in the absence of one that fully met their needs. TEMPAL, as the coder's capability is called, tracks dynamic task requests and also allows for sorting of tasks and ensuring requestors get a timely approval or disapproval status of their requests.

"Primarily because of an inefficient time lag associated with using chat, they decided to build a website which would begin a centralized workflow process once a request was entered into it," said Mr. Terry.

The ESC team saw that TEMPAL lacked a graphical depiction to improve situational awareness, which the Mission Planning Warehouse could provide, as it includes Google Earth views.

"We saw an opportunity to not only give warfighters an improved capability, but a chance to start a relationship with this combat coder group and the operational users," said Mr. Terry. "These are the folks who are providing direct support to OIF [Operation Iraqi Freedom] and OEF [Operation Enduring Freedom], and their input is significant."

Throughout 2009 and 2010, team members traveled to the CAOC to work with the combat coders to refine and improve the combined capabilities, or what then became known as EMPIRE-A.

"It [EMPIRE-A] provides a central repository where the users have the information they need all in one location, so they can make the appropriate associations during their assessments for the final decision on task requests," said Mr. Terry.

The work showed promise and in fiscal year 2010 the EMPIRE-A team's proposal for prototype development was selected by the Enterprise Integration Division of the Capabilities Integration Office for funding through the C2 Constellation program. The C2 Constellation's portfolio of prototypes is focused on spurring innovation and enterprise integration between programs of record.

In February 2010, the first prototype of EMPIRE-A was released in theater. Mr. Terry and Captain Pierce traveled to areas of responsibility to support the fielding effort and to provide training, while development support was provided by David Greeley, Steve Harrison, Jamie Davidson and Sam Chase back at Hanscom .

"It's critical that the user be a constant part of the process," said Mr. Terry. "If you transition too far away from the user, the final product ends up being too much of what we interpreted their need to be versus what they were really looking for.

"The risk in this is that in today's operational environment, if we don't answer the call, our products may not be used, or replaced by something built in-house."

At Empire Challenge '10, held in July and August, the team had another successful demonstration, this time with EMPIRE-A.

"After the demonstration, we challenged ourselves to include additional functionality," said Captain Wolak. "The result is a more mature and capable version of EMPIRE-A that is ready to be installed in the CAOC."

All team members agree that being able to work directly with the operational users has been key to ensuring success.

"This project is an example of the success that can result from engaging directly with operational users properly," said Captain Wolak. "TEMPAL did not generate new requirements; it provided an example of what the users had already described for an AOC execution capability."

The improvements delivered through EMPIRE-A provided a functioning prototype that ESC can use to ensure these existing requirements are interpreted correctly, she continued.

"EMPIRE-A is an example of near-perfect cooperation and teamwork between multiple organizations and efforts within ESC, the Air Force developers and acquirers and our Air Force warfighters in the field," said Col. Jack Jibilian, the Battle Management Directorate's Engineering director. "As one team, we were able to quickly identify a critical warfighter requirement and deliver, test and field that capability in an unbelievably short time."

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