The role of an Air Operations Center (AOC) in the United States Air Force is to provide command and control of air operations. Simply put, the AOC receives a high-level description of tasks and effects and generates a plan of how to best execute them. Within an AOC, planners make crucial decisions to create the overall air plan for any given day. They are expected to complete the plan in a limited amount of time—in part by pairing collection tasks consisting of intelligence, surveillance, and/or reconnaissance (ISR) requests with the available platforms. Any assistance these planners, especially the less experienced ones, can obtain to help create the air plan in a timely manner would make the entire process more effective.
One major challenge is making the best use of available resources. For instance, rather than assigning an unmanned aerial vehicle to a collection task, it may be more cost effective and expedient to further task a manned aircraft that is already operating in the area. Hurried human planners often overlook opportunities to take advantage of relationships between tasks, even though combining missions often results in collecting more intelligence with fewer resources.
We developed the Intelligent Pairing Assistant decision aid (IPA) to address this challenge. The implementation of IPA was accomplished with the use of an agile project management approach that focused on frequent discussions and evaluations of the requirements, design, and software with subject matters experts and AOC instructors. IPA filters the existing missions to highlight those most likely to be able to meet a specific collection request or set of requests. IPA then provides additional information for these missions in a graphical format to help the planner quickly decide among the available missions. IPA is implemented as a plugin to the Master Air Attack Planning Toolkit (MAAPTK).
MAAPTK is a planning tool used in the AOC to develop missions for inclusion in an Air Tasking Order (ATO). The MAAPTK application provides near real-time battlespace information that enables planners to visualize and generate battle plans that are accurate and appropriate to developing situations. Planners can view key information on tables, timelines, maps, graphs, and grids so that they can quickly understand the essential situational elements and can create the appropriate missions and packages using simple drag-and-drop operations.