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Disseminating Digital Terrain Data to Warfighters.

Maneuver, engineer, artillery, intelligence, combat-support, and combat-service-support leaders need accurate, current, and relevant digital terrain data for mission planning, situational awareness, and viewing the "common operational picture"--or annotated planning map--of the battlespace. These digital maps will be the future basis for visualizing the common operational picture and for all mission analysis. The challenge is to get these commanders and their subordinates on that common picture, which is passed down the chain of command and embellished by planners at every level. Ultimately the picture is shared--or disseminated--at all levels and forms a common understanding of the operation. This article describes the concept for digital terrain-data dissemination currently being implemented in the Army's digital forces. Dissemination will be through the Army Battle Command System (ABCS), from the tactical-operations center down to weapon platforms and soldiers--or Land Warriors.

Who Is Working This Concept?

The TRADOC Program Integration Office for Terrain Data (TPIO-TD) is coordinating and synchronizing directly with the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, and Communications Systems and the project director for Combat Terrain Information Systems to design, test, and implement this concept. These three agencies are focused on integration, interoperability, and commonality aspects of terrain data and products for developing, testing, producing, and fielding Army systems that require digital terrain data.

What Is the Engineer's Role?

Throughout the implementation of the concept, establishing the common topographic operating environment (CTOE) will depend on digital terrain-data dissemination. The CTOE is an interoperable, fully integrated network of standard system architectures, standard data and communications protocols, software tools, and other infrastructures that facilitate a common topographic view of the battlefield. The senior engineer officer, in coordination with the terrain technicians, must ensure that the CTOE is established within a command so that all automated systems are operating "on the same sheet of music." This is accomplished by employing strong data- and database-management practices and solid tactical standard operating procedures (TACSOPs).

Who Needs Digital Terrain Data?

All warfighters have become consumers of the digital terrain data produced by the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA). Until recently, NIMA's primary Army customers were topographic-engineer companies and terrain detachments. Everyone understood that the right map was in a 155-millimeter canister that was managed and stored by the S2 or S4. Now, with the advent of the ABCS and other automated support systems, warfighters are "downloading" digital terrain data for near-real-time terrain evaluations, mission planning/rehearsals, and battlespace visualization. To establish and maintain the CTOE, the senior engineer officer should publish guidelines for subordinate units. This will ensure that units with Department of Defense activity address codes (DODAACs) and national stock numbers (NSNs) will adhere to the CTOE when they request digital terrain data and terrain products.

How Does Digital Terrain Data Get to End Users?

There are several levels and paths by which data flows to the battle-command systems and weapon platforms. The levels are the terrain technicians, the analysts, and the warfighters. The paths are basically a "push" or "pull" operation. Before we can discuss these operations, we must briefly explain the Foundation Data (FD) Concept (see article, page 10), which envisions that every unit will have the basic set (foundation data) of digital terrain data (a basic load, if you will) for a contingency area. This data consists of imagery, elevation, and feature information required for planning. The FD Concept further states that units will receive "just-in-time" digital terrain data that is relevant to their mission, unit type, and high-resolution digital terrain data. This Mission-Specific Data Set (MSDS) is the information that is collected, processed, and exploited by NIMA (and other collectors and analysis elements) and sent to the warfighters. The MSDS may reside in a database or may have been produced for ano ther customer. There will be exceptions to this basic premise, but the sequence of foundation data preloaded and the rapid dissemination of the MSDS is the basis for the following discussion. Now, let's describe the push and pull of MSDS to the warfighters.

Terrain technicians and analysts are the Army's subject-matter experts in terrain analysis, topographic engineering, geospatial sciences, and cartography. They establish the push and pull methods to ensure that the right information is available to warfighters for mission planning and execution.

* Push: Topographic-engineer companies and terrain detachments will establish profiles with NIMA so that digital terrain data of concern to their area of interest is automatically pushed to them. This will include both foundation data sets and planned MSDSs.

* Pull: Often terrain technicians and analysts pull data based on a search of NIMA's Gateway (a military Internet-like link to terrain data) or order data using standard supply procedures. The management of all terrain data within a command (theater, corps, division, or brigade) is a critical task for terrain technicians and analysts.

* Push: Terrain technicians will "place" foundation data and the MSDS onto command-post map servers so that authorized command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C41) systems can access a controlled set of digital terrain data.

How Will the Digits Move?

The concept and implementation methodology currently accepted by the Army depends on a robust satellite-communications system to handle the dissemination of the MSDS from a division (or higher) command post to multiple receivers. The joint system being developed is the Global Broadcast Service (GBS), which will be used to disseminate data from a higher controlling authority to a "local map server." The GBS provides the bandwidth and data throughput to satisfy the broadcast dissemination of required MSDSs to warfighters. Some evaluations are being conducted during phase two of the 4th Infantry Division's Capstone Exercise in 2001. The exercise is considered the culminating exercise of the FDD.

Warfighters, the end users of digital terrain data, will--

* Pull data from the local map server that supports the command post. The majority of ABCSs will use the digital terrain data to visualize, analyze, and evaluate the terrain. Some mission-data load-preparation systems will also pull digital terrain data and make packages to export to weapons platforms with digital-map displays.

* Push data using a removable media, like an encryption keying device, which will be uploaded at designated command posts and/or downloaded at air, ground, and soldier platforms as often as it is required. Not only will digital terrain data be disseminated this way but also other items like signal operating instructions, system passwords, and operations overlays. Some recipients of this data will have portable systems installed in high-mobility, multipurpose wheeled vehicles (HMMWVs) and heavy-equipment transports (HETs), moving map displays in cockpits of helicopters, integrated terrain display systems in armored vehicles, and backpacked soldier systems. Operators of these systems will be able to overlay operational graphics, weather data, friendly and suspected/known enemy locations, or even weapons fans on this accurate digital terrain data that is managed by the terrain team down as low as the maneuver-brigade level.

After warfighters have the digital terrain data, they will use the Joint Mapping Tool Kit (JMTK) or Tactical Mapping Tool Kit (TMTK) within the ABCS to manipulate and display the data. The Digital Topographic Support System (DTSS) terrain analysts will manage the data and database and establish the CTOE at the division and brigade levels. At the battalion level, the operations section performs these tasks. The senior engineer officer, the terrain-visualization expert, will continue to assist with establishing and maintaining the CTOE. He will work with the commander and staff to define the types of terrain data and detail of terrain analysis needed based on the planning requirements of the unit being supported.

What Types of Data Does the Concept Cover?

Several types of digital terrain data are required by the ABCS, weapon platforms, and land warriors to visualize an area of interest. Weapon platforms and the land-warrior system must identify the specific terrain-data requirements for foundation data and MSDSs. This article describes the established implementation plan for the dissemination of digital terrain data. While the concept and implementation plan appear sound, it depends on several developing systems and capabilities (such as the ABCS, the GBS, the JMTK, and the TMTK) that have yet to be tested in a full-up realistic training exercise. The devil is in the details. The role of engineer officers and terrain technicians is to help warfighters understand the FD Concept, establish a CTOE, and get digital terrain data to battle-command systems, weapon platforms, and Land Warriors within their organizations.

Mr. Ralph M. Erwin is the deputy director of the TRADOC Program Integration Office for Terrain Data (TPIO-TD). He was previoiusly a senior systems-integration engineer for Lockheed Martin Corporation and Computer Sciences Corporation. Mr. Erwin holds a degree in mathematics from Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma.
COPYRIGHT 2001 U.S. Army Maneuver Support Center
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Article Details
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Author:Erwin, Ralph M.
Publication:Engineer: The Professional Bulletin for Army Engineers
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2001
Words:1434
Previous Article:GEOSPATIAL ENGINEERING: A RAPIDLY EXPANDING ENGINEER MISSION.
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