JMPS opens window to easier mission planning

Air Force and Navy strike and fighter pilots will use familiar Microsoft Corp. software tools and interfaces for highly detailed mission planning early in the next century as Logicon Inc. starts to roll out the new Windows NT-based Joint Mission Planning System.

JMPS, a $453 million Naval Air Systems Command-managed contract awarded to Logicon in June, will replace stand-alone and stove-piped mission planning systems running on Unix platforms with a "framework" that enables commands to tailor JMPS to their needs and requirements, according to Vincent Goshi, Logicon's vice president and the manager of the company's mission planning program. The Windows NT environment "makes it much easier to plug in new technology and much easier to configure," Goshi said last week.

Goshi said the framework will make it easier for the company's JMPS partners, which include aircraft manufacturers, to build components for JMPS - in much the same way the Microsoft operating system serves as a framework for third-party software developers. "We will provide the tooling and framework that will integrate the components,'' Goshi said.

Phil Abramowitz, a Logicon software developer, said the basic framework for JMPS is a simple map window, which serves as the starting point for the basic planning functions in the system. Pilots then can add a variety of commercial or military mapping products, including those that feature digital elevation data that enable pilots to fly through a mission before even leaving the ground.

Abramowitz said the JMPS environment enables third-party developers to add components through Microsoft's Active-X software and common object programming, with powerful tools built in to help these developers manufacture code on the fly.

Mission planning systems are used by air crews to plan every detail of a mission, including routes, threats and points for weapons launches. Logicon, which based its winning JMPS design on the Air Force-developed, PC-based Portable Flight Planning System makes the mission planning process easier because it provides pilots with a single-window environment.

Current mission planning systems used by the Navy and the Air Force require pilots to use a different window for each stage of the process - for example, one window to plan an aircraft route and yet another window to plan the weapons release points. Goshi said that in surveys of air crews "single-window planning was the No. 1 priority.''

Capt. Richard Moebius, the Naval Air Systems Command's JMPS program manager, said the Windows environment will give pilots an "easy-to-use machine that will allow them to do mission planning rapidly." He pegged the cost savings from the shift to the PC environment at "from three to four times the current system."

Col. Ronald Vazquez, the Air Force JMPS program manager from the Electronics Systems Command, said the PC environment also will lend itself to the deployment of new, slimmed-down Air Force expeditionary warfare squadrons in which only two aircraft of a particular type would be sent to a remote field. "Two ship deployments require a smaller, more portable mission planning system...and it's a lot easier to haul a [JMPS] laptop around" than the heavy Unix boxes used to support existing systems.

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