Air Force

August 16, 2013

Historic airpower database now online

Lt. Col. Jenns Robertson researches information for Theater History of Operations Aug. 17, 2012, at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. THOR is database of bombs dropped from American military aircraft from World War I through current times. Robertson is an Air and Space Power Strategist at the Air Force Research Institute.

 

More than eight years in the making, a new database containing information from U.S. military and coalition aerial bombing campaigns over the last century is now publicly available online.

An historical data collection project developed and researched by Lt. Col. Jenns Robertson, the Theater History of Operations Reports database, or THOR, has evolved into a full-scale research tool available online at http://afri.au.af.mil/thor/index.asp.

The database combines digitized paper mission reports starting with World War I to create a central source of bombing history around the globe. The database can be searched by date, conflict or even aircraft-specific criteria, and organized into spreadsheets, charts or onto maps, forming a live-action sequence of events.

The THOR database is useful not only for current and future military commanders, Robertson said, but also for academic researchers, historians and government agencies involved in unexploded ordnance cleanup efforts.

“The most exciting part is that I can’t envision all the ways this can be used,” Robertson said. “This is a data trove that allows us to look over the last 70-100 years of bombing data, how we’ve conducted wars for the last century using airpower, and if we can’t pull lessons out of that, then we’re not doing our job.”

Currently, the public can access data, including 58 different aircraft, bomb information, and even altitude, from World Wars I and II and Vietnam. The records from World War II and Vietnam are the most complete, he said, and include U.S. and Royal Air Force data, as well as some Australian, New Zealand and South African air force missions.

“We’ve tried to have all air forces, to make sure that it is an airpower view versus just a (U.S.) Air Force view, so joint, coalition data is our goal,” explained Robertson.

Korea, he added, will be included on THOR, but record keeping during that time was done by hand due to changing technology.

“Everything was done free-text, not punch-card text or digitally, so we have to read the reports to pull the context out in order to get the data,” he said.

Robertson began the project in 2006 when his military duties required him to create weekly briefings of current bombing activity. Realizing that it was taking longer than necessary to gather information from multiple resources, Robertson wanted to create a centralized source of information for military commanders to use. The need for a single information pool on current missions expanded into Robertson’s goal of building an entire airpower collection dating back to World War I. During his off-duty time, Robertson spent the next five years decoding almost four million Vietnam War entries gathered from the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

When he was assigned to the Air Force Research Institute here to work exclusively on THOR, Robertson was able to locate strategic bombing information from World War II and battlefield raid reports from World War I, further adding to the database.

“We’re still hunting for some of the data, and I don’t know if we’ll ever find it. You ask and you hunt and oftentimes we get lucky and find a trove like in the halls of the Air Force Historical Research Agency where I ran across the bombing survey books that had been untouched for 70 years,” Robertson said.

Although the THOR website is just now publicly available, the database has already proved helpful, most recently by the Vietnamese government, which is using the Vietnam conflict data to assess post-war bomb and mine contamination in the Southeast Asia region.

“We can show that they have actually been able to save lives and prevent casualties since they originally got the data back in 2010, and the data that we’ve been able to give them has been even better, so hopefully we’ll improve their chances of lowering exposure to explosives,” Robertson said. “To be told, and to find out from the folks that are doing the demining in the field, that the data that was sent to them made them more effective. It’s an incredible feeling to get that feedback that what you’re doing is important.”

From the time the Minnesota native arrived at the Air Force Research Institute, he and THOR team members John Conway and computer programmer Billy Barth have been working to get the data online for public use. Robertson said part of the goal of putting THOR on a public website is to have the best and brightest academics and historians fill in the gaps in official documents and correct inaccurate data whenever necessary.

“The professors at the various universities who teach and are writing books and doing research, we want to provide them access to this resource so they can give us the feedback of whether or not we’ve got it right,” Robertson said. “I suspect there are errors still uncovered within the system that I cannot discover because I don’t have the knowledge base myself, but, if I put it out there for the experts to examine, we can make it a better resource faster than relying on me working by myself or just a small crowd of us within the (Department of Defense). I look forward to seeing the response and see how we can make the database better for them.”

 




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chrissy Best

Losing sleep: CSAF shares what keeps him up at night

U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chrissy Best Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III speaks with 501st Combat Support Wing Airmen during an all call at Royal Air Force Croughton, England, July 16. Welsh explained the...
 
 

Final rule puts more teeth into Military Lending Act

The Defense Department July 21 closed loopholes to protect U.S. men and women in uniform from predatory lending practices, President Barack Obama said this morning at the 116th Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The heightened level of financial and consumer-rights protection against unscrupulous practices, called the final rule of the Military...
 
 

Northrop Grumman demonstrates open mission systems architecture across manned, unmanned systems

PALMDALE, Calif.–Northrop Grumman demonstrated in recent test flights that the U.S. Air Force’s Open Mission Systems architecture standards can be successfully integrated across multiple systems and platforms. These flights have paved the way for new capabilities to be integrated rapidly and affordably across advanced manned and unmanned aircraft. In June, at Edwards Air Force Base,...
 

 

AF continues to work with DOD, OPM on cybersecurity incident

The Air Force maintains its commitment to protect personal information from cyber threats by continuing efforts with the Defense Department and the Office of Personnel Management to assist those impacted by the recent cyber incident involving federal background investigation data. OPM and an interagency response team, including investigators from the FBI and the Department of...
 
 
Untitled-1

New AFMC mission, vision statements emphasize agility

New mission and vision statements are the foundation of a new command strategy designed to push Air Force Materiel Command to be more agile as it delivers war-winning support to the warfighter. The command’s new mission s...
 
 
Comm-CofC

New commander online with 412th Communications Squadron

Air Force photograph by Edward Cannon From left: Col. Eric Leshinsky, 412th Mission Support Group commander, and Lt. Col. J. Scott Fuller pose for a photo as Lt. Col. Christopher Budde looks on. Budde relinquished command of th...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>