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A radar image from FalconView Weather shows cloud ceiling with observation points over Nebraska. A team from the Electronic Systems Center is working to make this weather situational awareness capability available to warfighters. (Courtesy graphic)
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Warfighters incorporate weather into planning with new capability

Posted 6/30/2011   Updated 6/30/2011 Email story   Print story


by Patty Welsh
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

6/30/2011 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Warfighters will soon have improved weather situational awareness, thanks to the efforts of the Electronic Systems Center's Aerospace Management Systems Division Weather Programs Branch.

FalconView Weather is a net-centric, lightweight, easy-to-use capability that displays current and forecasted weather conditions for military use. It allows personnel to visualize weather information, such as observations, forecasts, pilot reports and radar, in overlays on the Portable Flight Planning System's (PFPS) FalconView mapping capability.

PFPS is a suite of software for planning air missions. The addition of FalconView Weather to the PFPS software suite provides the aviator the ability to consider weather impacts in mission planning and to adapt flight plans based on weather threats.

"FalconView Weather provides the warfighter with actionable weather information," said Gerry Flynn, program manager. "It allows them to avoid weather hazards, such as thunderstorms and dust, especially overseas in areas such as Southwest Asia."

The prototype was developed by MITRE engineers working for ESC's Battle Management Directorate in 2008, in conjunction with military personnel at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., numerous Air National Guard units, Air Force Special Operations Command and the Joint Command Post in Iraq.

In February 2010, the Weather Program office received Warfighter Rapid Acquisition Program funds to operationalize the prototype, establish sustainment functions and to develop additional capabilities. Progress has been moving quickly since then.

"In just 18 months since we were notified of the WRAP funding, we selected a contractor, went on contract, operationalized the prototype in a first release, established training and 24/7 help desk support and are set to field a substantial upgrade after operational test in July 2011," said John Dreher, Integration and Capabilities Section chief, Weather Program Office. "And with the upgrade, the team has been able to take advantage of emerging Air Force and Navy weather web services, which significantly reduce integration costs and schedule and has provided an order of magnitude increase in available weather products."

Other enhancements for the second release include improved user interfaces to create areas of interest, to easily select weather products for automated update, and to tailor and control product displays. Users will also benefit from a streamlined software install and uninstall and the ability to support low network bandwidth users using previously retrieved and stored weather products.

Another significant item is leveraging "Agile" software development principles for the third release of FalconView Weather.

"Agile development allows developers to bin and prioritize requirements into product and sprint backlogs, which focus the software engineering and development process in order to deliver the end product on time and on cost to the customer," said Jason Walonoski, FalconView Weather MITRE lead engineer.

In software development, a product backlog is a list of all items to be accomplished while sprint refers to the timing of getting the items accomplished.

According to Mr. Flynn, soliciting feedback from the user community via online demonstrations during the software development and providing the beta releases to user representatives and the test community allowed the program office to get vital clarification on system functionality and usability.

"We are able to meet warfighters' needs by actively engaging with the user through the use of technical demonstrations broadcasted over Defense Connect Online," he said.

A primary objective for FalconView Weather is to leverage the capability to integrate weather with other systems, such as the Joint Mission Planning System. Since the FalconView Weather software code is platform independent, only minor changes are required to work with other system's map displays. Early JMPS integration efforts have proved successful and make a target goal of a single software baseline, which supports both PFPS and JMPS, within reach for 2012.

"FalconView Weather is really about making it easy for the warfighter to consider the effects of weather in planning and execution ... improving workflow and decisions," said Mr. Dreher. "The need for an integrated weather capability is apparent throughout the C2, ISR and mission planning communities and I believe FalconView Weather is positioned to fulfill that need."

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