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WEdge team provides database solutions

The Warfighter's Edge, or WEdge, software was developed to automate the process of retreiving, verifying and organizing mission information for operational flying units. It is a product of the U.S. Air Force Academy's Institute for Information Technology Applications. (U.S. Air Force illustration)

The Warfighter's Edge, or WEdge, software was developed to automate the process of retreiving, verifying and organizing mission information for operational flying units. It is a product of the U.S. Air Force Academy's Institute for Information Technology Applications. (U.S. Air Force illustration)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The Air Force's caretaker for the Barry M. Goldwater Range Complex in Southwest Arizona has the Warfighter's Edge program to thank for solving a massive database issue at its complex. 

The 56th Fighter Wing's Range Management Office desperately needed a system that could wade through massive amounts of range data and give pilots the target references and restrictions needed to complete training. 

Each day, F-16 Fighting Falcon and A-10 Thunderbolt II pilots from Luke and Davis-Monthan Air Force bases and the Tucson Air National Guard use the complex's three large tactical ranges with 77 target arrays for target practice. The range management office removes the peppered hulks and refurbishes target sets at the end of the year. It's also responsible for weapons safety -- specifically, ensuring that weapons safety footprints for all targets do not encroach on range borders or manned positions. 

In 2003, the Air Force developed the Safe-Range program, which made it possible to electronically generate footprints for a variety of targets and conditions. Soon, Safe-Range use became mandatory for all aircraft and munitions in use on Air Force training ranges. But after five years of footprint generation and analysis, the spreadsheet storing all of the aircraft, weapon and target combinations had swollen to more than 20,000 entries. It became a challenge to present the data in a manner that pilots could quickly understand. 

"Pilots need to quickly find if there are any weapons restrictions for their mission," said Chas Buchanan, director of operations for the 56th RMO. "Give us a Web-based solution that mines through all of the data and presents the pilot with only the information that they need for that mission." 

Without a dedicated software developer in the office, the range management office, or RMO, scoured the Air Force for help and ended up on the doorstep of the Warfighter's Edge office at the Air Force Academy. 

"This sounded like something we could develop and bring into WEdge," said Lt. Col. Andy Berry, WEdge Program Director. "I put Lt. Col. Steve Burns on it -- he's our go-to database programming guy." 

So began an 18-month cooperative effort that resulted in a robust database capable of the complex sorts that the 56th RMO needed. The last step was to get it onto the Web. WEdge Web programmer Daniela Trapani wrote the code for the interactive Web pages the pilots would use for mission planning. Colonel Berry and Ms. Trapani were indispensable, said Lt. Col. Dwight Robertson, a reservist with the 56th RMO. 

"We knew exactly what we wanted, but no one in our office had any programming ability," Colonel Robertson said. "Between two of us reservists and one contractor, we saved the Air Force tens of thousands of dollars in programming costs." 

Feedback from pilots and range managers has been outstanding since the program entered its beta-testing stage, Mr. Buchanan said. 

"Our mission is to help the pilots get bombs on target and to do it safely," he said. "This program does it all. It's fast, informative, and gives them just what they need before stepping out the door to fly. I'd be surprised if this did not become the new standard for all Air Force ranges. We can't thank the WEdge Team enough for their help in pulling this off." 

WEdge is Air Combat Command's Briefing System of Record and is free for all Air Force users. It was developed by the Institute for Information Technology Applications, which develops research topics, selects researchers, administers sponsored research, publicizes results and hosts conferences and workshops to facilitate the dissemination of research findings to a wide range of private and government organizations. In addition, IITA seeks to help prepare Academy graduates for a high technology Air Force by involving cadets in research projects as researchers. 

For more information about the latest software improvements or about the WEdge Program, contact WEdge operations manager Ryan Tanton by phone at 719-333-0686 or by e-mail at rt@wedge.hpc.mil.