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Common spatial info platform for Army and Air Force

US: US Army Central Coalition Forces Land Component Command and US Air Forces Central are pooling data sources to satisfy their individual geospatial mission requirements through the newly formed Geospatial Central Command Collaborative (G3C). The two organisations previously operated on separate information platforms, but with G3C they each have a broader, more complete network of geospatial data. The collaborative activity eliminates overlap of information, saving the time, energy and money previously spent to collect the same data for two separate military branches.

The G3C effort, which began in 2009, exists as a website that is accessible to all military personnel, giving them the most up-to-date geospatial imaging information of areas under US military occupation via the Army or Air Force. It is a single website and map with GIS rivalling the speed of Google Maps even for deployed or remote users, according to Dave Williams, an assistant architect at AECOM, the company providing technical, operational and professional management solutions for the project.

Craig Erlandson, group manager of the technical aspects for the programme at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, explained that the project evolved from the need for a system to support geospatial information collected by personnel at Fort McPherson. However, the project manager and architect at the time, Tammy McCracken, realised there was a better option. Instead of creating the geospatial network from scratch, McCracken saw a complementary advantage to layering the information on top of the US Air Force Air Combat Command’s Installation Geospatial Information and Services network already in use.

The collaboration’s first step was sharing US Air Forces Central’s list of sites, which included 10 years of data collected on the 1,500 Air Force airfields in its Geobase Program. This project not only eliminates redundant data and creates a smoother flow of communications but it also saves USD 4 million in hardware, software, data and staffing costs annually.

Previously, it was difficult for troops on the ground to access unclassified geospatial information seamlessly. They would have to log in to and search multiple sites for maps and raw data. Erlandson relates that now a navigator on a C-17 coming into Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, can access G3C in flight and not only see the information and maps but also quickly download the raw source data into GIS aircraft mission-planning programs, such as FalconView, for measurements and analysis. Williams claims this site is more up-to-date and faster than what could be provided commercially, without the redundancies of two geo-based programmes.

Source: AFCEA