Tech

April 13, 2012

B-1 mission planning software early release improves capabilities

by Patty Welsh
Hanscom AFB, Mass.
Air Force photograph by A1C Peter Thompson
Maj. Jeff Moffitt, 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Dyess AFB, Texas, works on the newest B-1 bomber mission planning software March 29, 2012. The Electronic Systems Center recently completed an early fielding of the B-1 Mission Planning Release 6.0 which provides new features and capabilities.

The Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., recently completed an early fielding of B-1 Mission Planning Release 6.0 software.

This release provides new features and capabilities and minimizes the time currently needed to do mission planning.

“Currently, the user has to conduct mission planning by using a previous release of the software designated for the last aircraft upgrade and convert that output through a data conversion tool so that it can be flown on the current aircraft upgrade,” said Joe Blanchard, B-1 program integration monitor.

Mission planning software releases are usually fielded in conjunction with the block upgrades for the aircraft. When the previous release 5.0 was canceled, due to a Critical Change Request against the Joint Mission Planning System Increment IV, users were forced to use the conversion tool to enable the mission planning software.

The need to use a data conversion tool puts the user at a disadvantage in two ways; one, by being a step behind capabilities available in the newer versions of mission planning software; and also in that conversion requires a two-step process to achieve a valid mission plan. The release 6.0 upgrade will eliminate that second step for the current and previous aircraft block upgrades.

“An example of using the conversion tool would be like trying to take Word 2007 documents and making them compatible with Word 2003,” said 1st Lt. Patrick Gernert, program manager.  “The users of 2003 can see and use those documents, but they don’t have the added capabilities the 2007 would have.”

Designed to be backward compatible with the two previous aircraft blocks, release 6.0 will be released approximately 10 months before the fielding of the next aircraft block upgrade.

During development, the ESC team worked hard to ensure software errors were identified and corrected before this version was released. As a result, overall software stability of release 6.0 is greatly improved over previous releases, significantly reducing workload and user frustration.

Release 6.0 brings several important new capabilities to the field.

A new feature of 6.0 is that it now allows planning for the Guided Bomb Unit-54 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, the “latest great advancement in the war fighter arsenal,” according to program officials.

Additional capabilities include the ability to support the radar reliability and maintainability improvement program, automatic generation of B-1 routes from Communication Navigation Management System and Inertial Navigation System Upgrade.  It also sets the stage for a fully integrated data link merge with the next block upgrade for the B-1.

“As the B-1 recently completed its 10,000th combat mission for the Air Force, we want to ensure we’re providing the most up-to-date capabilities for this important platform and its mission planning,” said Gernert.

Other improvements include eliminating mission binders and creating a standard file structure.  With release 6.0, the user now has the capability to create and save in a structure that is the standard for the B-1 community.  Therefore, a user can easily go back to a specified file date of a sortie and either review or reuse mission data.  The war fighter also has the ability to generate all paper products for a mission from one source.  With previous versions, planners had to go to multiple systems to get everything they needed.

“Time is of the essence when it comes to mission planning,” said Blanchard.  “Now, we’ve been able to minimize that (mission planning) time so the user can devote more time to other parts of his or her mission preparation. “

Fielding and training of release 6.0 has recently been completed at Dyess AFB, Texas, a forward operating location and Ellsworth AFB, S.D.

“We could never field early as we were always waiting for the aircraft or there were delays in our production,” said Blanchard.  “However, by reducing our test cycle and the other obstacles to production and creating a backward compatible product we took advantage of this ‘window of opportunity’ to release the software early, thus providing this improved capability to the user.  And in addition to all the positives achieved in the program, we also came in significantly under budget.”




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