NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) --
Nellis Air Force Base Airmen are utilizing the modern software application WIDOW, or Web-based Information Dominant Warfare, to digitize the tactical-level mission planning process.
The 100% government-owned code that is designated as the official United States Air Force Mission Planning Cell Tool enables real-time and distributed contribution, coordination and visualization of planning details so Airmen, Guardians and joint partners can focus on tactics and lethality.
Mission commanders, mission planning cell chiefs and their teams need only an internet connection and a browser to use WIDOW, which offers increased speed, organization and accuracy of planning tasks.
Applications like WIDOW will be able to live on the Advanced Battle Management System’s secure military digital network environment and disseminate data to the edge, other applications and mission partners with speed and agility in an effort to achieve the Joint All-Domain Command and Control vision.
“What WIDOW provides the warfighter right now, is the ability to do collaborative, all-domain, tactical-level mission planning in a secure and cloud-hosted environment,” said Maj. William Short, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Fellow at Blue Horizons, Center for Strategy and Technology, Air War College, Maxwell AFB, Alabama.
WIDOW uses Department of Defense Platform One’s continuous Authority to Operate, or c-ATO, on Non-secure Internet Protocol Router (unclassified), Secret Internet Protocol Router (secret) and Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communication System (top secret) networks.
“Think of Platform One as a road that all DoD-approved applications or vehicles can operate on. This road has built-in rules and security measures, i.e. red/green lights, etc. The security measures enable DoD users with a Common Access Card to access the applications they need to execute their mission, at their respective security levels,” Short said.
“WIDOW is only successful because of the zero barrier to entry for using it and the fact that you don’t have to install it directly on a computer, like you do with so many legacy software applications,” Short said. “WIDOW fills a gap that has never been filled by the mission-planning enterprise. It enables users to complete the mission-planning process defined in 3-3.IPE (Integrated Planning and Employment) in a distributed and collaborative way, where everybody who is a part of that mission can access mission data easily.”
Warfighters use 3-3.IPE, which is a manual that outlines Air Force tactics, techniques and procedures for mission planning and employment. The manual details what data needs to be collected and what products should be generated with that data for each mission.
“What planners have historically had to do is take several individual pieces of mission data and manually input them into spreadsheets and other disconnected mission products as designated by 3-3.IPE and then save them on a shared drive or email them for dissemination to mission participants. If there is a missing or incorrect piece of information, then the process of saving, sharing and emailing happens again. This process is long, arduous and leaves a lot of room for error,” Short said.
Platform One allows all tactical-level planners and their teams to login to WIDOW at the same time and simultaneously update the mission data set and products in real-time.
Additionally, Platform One automates the updates, security and access to WIDOW via the commercial software best practice known as DevSecOps. The process enables applications like WIDOW to receive direct-user feedback and implement that feedback more quickly, because tactical-level planners have direct access to the application’s engineers.
This allows the engineers to truly understand the challenges and needs of the end user and then implement software updates as fast as possible.
“With DevSecOps, we can fix bugs and push new features on a timeline that most in the DoD have never seen before,” Short said.
“Utilizing a common dataset, WIDOW also automatically produces common products necessary to fly and execute the missions during training exercises like Red Flag and Weapons School Integration. Some examples are coordination cards, tanker plans, mission timelines, asset flows, etc. that enable all mission participants to stay on the same page with what’s going on in the mission-planning cycle, without needing to email each individual with updates,” Short added.
“WIDOW improved the access, accuracy and timeliness of information required for the U-2 (Dragon Lady) pilot to effectively synchronize capabilities with the composite force,” said Maj. John Mattson, former U-2 Weapons Instructor Course instructor and current Naval postgraduate school student.
“While the U-2 easily deconflicts vertically by flying several miles above all of the other air domain players, the objective of WSINT is not to deconflict capabilities, but to integrate capabilities to achieve the desired effect. WIDOW has improved the U-2 pilot’s access to mission-planning information and their ability to input timely refinements of mission planning-information in a manner that just wasn’t practical with paper coordination cards for a geographically or temporally-dispersed pilot in a space suit. That’s why the 19 WPS U-2 WIC cadre were early adopters and are continued users of WIDOW,” Mattson added.
The next step for WIDOW is to build the digital bridge between the tactical and operational levels by connecting it to Kessel Run’s family of applications that support the operational planning cycles in air operation centers.
This will enable operational and tactical planners to share data back and forth automatically and significantly reduce the need for shared drives, email and SharePoint to disseminate critical planning data.
“Kessel Run has created multiple modern software applications that live on the cloud, that digitize and replace manual processes for operational-level planning. WIDOW has done that for tactical-level planning, but these capabilities are not yet connected,” Short said.
WIDOW is the result of Air Force leadership and mission-partner support of Airmen innovation. WIDOW is an example of how warfighters can directly accelerate change by identifying a need, building a vision, creating a prototype and developing it into an operational capability.