DOD task order system is ready for Iraq air strikes
- By Gregory Slabodkin
- Mar 09, 1998
If American warplanes eventually carry out air strikes against Iraq, Defense Department
planners will use a newly completed system to pick daily targets and manage the air
The Contingency Theater Automated Planning System is a portable network of workstations
that links aircraft, weapons, terrain and target databases. The information is combined to
create daily air tasking orders. Each day's ATO runs to several hundred pages and lists
air strike targets.
CTAPS replaced the time-consuming process of using grease pencils and butcher block
paper for planning air campaigns. During the Gulf War, for instance,
paper ATOs had to be flown daily to aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf. With CTAPS,
military leaders can transmit the ATOs via satellite from any location to Navy carriers in
the Persian Gulf.
"The difference between the capability we had before and CTAPS now is the
difference between night and day," said Col. Carl Steiling, program director for
theater battle management core systems at the Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air
Force Base, Mass.
All carrier air wings, including those assigned to the USS Independence and USS George
Washington in the gulf, have CTAPS terminals that let them receive and use electronic
ATOs. The USS John C. Stennis left Norfolk, Va., Feb. 26 to relieve the George Washington
DOD began using an initial test version of CTAPS, Version 5.0, in 1993. CTAPS' latest
software release, which is now available for military units in the Persian Gulf, is
Version 5.1.3. Version 5.2.2 is set for release this month.
In the latest crisis with Iraq, Saudi Arabia barred American warplanes from launching
air strikes from Saudi soil, putting a greater burden for carrier-based air strikes.
If carriers assume the role of the Joint Force Air Component Commander group and
compile the ATOs, CTAPS will let them coordinate air strikes from the ship and direct the
other service's warplanes, DOD officials said.
The JFACC Planning Tool, a new software prototype developed by the Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency and the Air Force, reduces preparation of an ATO to a matter of
hours. During the Gulf War, creating each day's ATO took as long as two days.
"The JFACC Planning Tool has been incorporated into our system and now is
considered to be a joint application for all the services," Steiling said.
"Previously it had been a manual-intensive operation to go from national
objectives to JFACC objectives to actual objectives for the air campaign for that
day," he said.
The databases, including CTAPS, the Combat Intelligence System and the Wing Command and
Control System will be under the umbrella of the Theater Battle Management Core System.
TBMCS will serve as a single database for all ATO planning. The system can alert
warplanes of target changes in midflight.
Lockheed Martin Corp. won the five-year, $150 million TBMCS integration and development
contract from the Air Force in 1995.
The work is being carried out at Lockheed's Mission Systems office in Colorado Springs,
Colo. TBMCS Version 1.0 will fully integrate the systems.
The Air Force plans to field test it in September and release an operational version
TBMCS complies with the Defense Information Infrastructure's Common Operating
Environment. The Air Force and Marine Corps will run the software on Sun Microsystems Inc.
workstations. Navy users will run it on Hewlett-Packard Co. workstations.
"As we move beyond Version 1.0 there will be a lot more use of PCs," Steiling
said. "However, it's going to be a cost-effective, business-type decision whether to
migrate these database applications to PC platforms or continue to host them on Unix
Another DARPA project, called JFACC After Next, seeks to shorten the air operations
cycle further by reducing the number of databases used in planning air campaigns. Logicon
Inc. of Torrance, Calif., won the integration contract for JFACC After Next.