AFWA and Industry: A Case Study in NextGen Evolution

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010
Ronald P. Lowther, PhD, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Bellevue, NE; and D. C. Plum, M. M. Brill, and K. M. Starr

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) increased use of Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) for its command and control, communications, and computer (C4) systems including environmental information. GIS provides capabilities to accurately synthesize data and imagery into a common operational picture to support situational awareness, decision making, and global aviation forecasts. The Air Force Weather Agency (AFWA) is the provider of weather services for the U.S. Air Force, Army, National Geospatial Agency, and other members of the Intelligence Community. AFWA has undertaken multiple projects to make its information more readily available and interoperable using standards such as the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) web services. These services support geo-referenced data and imagery requests that DoD agencies rely upon for standardized information exchange and visualization to effectively integrate C4 systems. The use of these standards mitigates challenges of an operational weather and aviation center like AFWA and provides a path forward to enable a “one mission, one forecast” concept. This DoD concept supports both deterministic and stochastic (probabilistic) based forecast decision support systems. Likewise, the National Weather Service (NWS), DoD, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are also transitioning towards probabilistic forecasting for operations.

The FAA's Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) will heavily rely on the standardization of information exchange and visualization to effectively reduce weather impacts to National Air Space (NAS) operations. Government agencies and industry partners are already moving forward developing plans to “net-centrify” operations and standardize using a distinct set of formats. This will enable NextGen to interoperate and integrate weather data provided by AFWA and other partner agencies for inclusion in the virtual NextGen 4-Dimensional (4-D) Weather Data Cube and its subset, the virtual 4-D Single Authoritative Source (SAS). FAA operations will rely on the SAS for single authoritative sources of weather and forecasts, similar to DoD's “one mission, one forecast” concept. This paper and presentation describes a case study in how AFWA is successfully providing data for NextGen in standardized formats and sharing experiences with the NWS and FAA. Many challenges lay ahead for multiple NextGen agencies. This paper describes some of these challenges and how AFWA, Northrop Grumman Corporation, and others can support the evolution of NextGen.