|Program Puts War Info at Fingertips |
Program Puts War Info at Fingertips
By Staff Sgt. Karin Wickwire, 355th Wing Public Affairs.
Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona -- (ACCNS) January 10, 2001 -- Pushing the technology envelope once again, a Davis-Monthan programming team has developed a command-and-control system that gives warfighters near-real-time information critical to their missions.
An example screen seen by users of WOC-Net during an exercise at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. (Click on image for higher-resolution copy.
The Wing Operations Center Network, which grew from Davis-Monthan's Briefing Room Interactive program, made its "very successful" wing debut "during a trial by fire:" an operational readiness exercise in December, said Lt. Col. Stan Harmon, chief of information technologies for the 355th Operations Support Squadron at Davis-Monthan.
WOC-Net was originally developed to display information -- mission-oriented protective postures, alarm conditions and threat conditions -- on computer screens around the base. To meet the real-time requirements vital to the warfighting mission, the system was designed to update the information every six seconds, so any computer monitoring WOC-Net had the current information, said Ken Matesich, a programmer with BAE Systems. He got started on the project with the work on Briefing Room Interactive, which began as a tool to automate the mission-planning process for pilots.
WOC-Net quickly evolved during the exercise, under the pressure of users learning a new system and programmers trying to keep warfighters as informed, and safe, as possible.
An audio alert and numerous refinements were added to the program during the exercise. We updated the user functionality as they were using it live," Matesich said.
Some of the improvements made after seeing WOC-Net in use focused on the system itself: color and layout changes to make the WOC-Net control panel easier to read and use, said Sam Furrow, a graphic designer with BAE Systems.
But it was other improvements that mattered most to the warfighters.
"We added direct links to various supporting Web pages, turning the WOC-Net into an effective hub of information," Furrow said. "When the WOC-Net transmitted that a new (battle staff directive) was in effect, people had a direct link to that BSD, as well as links to weather, (special instructions), training, and public affairs sites."
One added WOC-Net tool that really paid off was the Sit-Map, or situational map, Harmon said. Sit-Map was used to mark the exercise's unexploded ordnance, craters and areas contaminated by chemical or biological weapons.
"This near-real-time information can be critical to anyone who would have to negotiate these obstacles to accomplish the mission as quickly and safely as possible," Harmon said.
Air Force "decision dominance" over potential enemies was boosted at every echelon of command. WOC-Net's "great command and control capability gave (us) the ability to pass instantaneous and continuous status updates to all wing organizations," said Col. Bobby Wilkes, 355th Wing commander.
"Because of the improved accuracy, timeliness and depth of information, WOC-Net represents a quantum leap in the ability to provide command and control at the tactical and wing levels," said Lt. Col. Guy Walsh, 355th Operations Group deputy commander for A-10s.
Lt. Col. John Sokolsky, 355th Operations Support Squadron commander, shares Walsh's opinion.
"The WOC-Net was the most significant wing-level command and control innovation since the creation of the field phone," Sokolsky said. "As a mission director, I was able to notify every operations center of our ability-to-survive-and-operate status within 10 seconds of the senior leadership's decision."
In past exercises, it would take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours to get that same information to the workcenters throughout the wing, Walsh said.
"Now, anyone with D-M intranet access has instant situational awareness of the current MOPP, ThreatCon and alarm conditions. In addition, the text block allows us to pass ungarbled information directly to every leadership level, accelerating the pace problems are resolved," Sokolsky said.
That direct information transfer was one increased command-and-control benefit offered by WOC-Net. A second C2 aspect surfaced when freedom gained from the time-consuming notification task meant Sokolsky, as the mission director, could direct more of his attention to the air war and the strategy for aircraft departure and arrival.
Even though WOC-Net performed better that originally advertised, it's important to note that it was designed as a technology demonstrator and test bed - it isn't a completed project, said Furrow, the graphic designer. "We had an excellent chance to work directly with the users of a new product during that product's creation. With further development the potential of the WOC-Net ... is great."