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Helping the best-laid plans stay on track

28 March 2018
Kyran Lange reviewing an ORBAT prototype.
Kyran Lange reviewing an ORBAT prototype.

A valuable web-based planning and logistics tool developed by DST assists the Defence Force to effectively plan campaigns.

The ORBAT Builder offers military planners easy access to authoritative force details needed to plan a campaign, such as the identity of force elements, command structure, strength, disposition of personnel, and equipment of units.

It is a follow-on from DST's very successful VIPA (Vital Planning and Analysis) workbench for planning and logistics feasibility analysis.

DST's Kyran Lange has helped develop the much-needed and highly-valued tool.

Web accessible

Lange explains "Military planners are able to go and see what ORBAT information is available for their plans, while operations staff can rotate units and otherwise tailor ORBAT information during the execution of operations. Obtaining Order of Battle information from VIPA is not always easy as it is a desktop application that must be installed on your computer, so we created ORBAT Builder as a web application that demonstrates the potential of current web technologies reusing the existing information from the Defence Restricted Network using a web browser."

The results can be shared with other headquarters staff through useful export options to file formats including Microsoft PowerPoint, for briefing the Commander, and Excel, for further analysis.

"We picked up the need for ORBAT Builder over time, after interactions with many clients over the years," Lange says, "The ORBAT information is fundamentally important to them, but it is always hard to access quality data. The amount of times someone has tried to reinvent an ORBAT Builder indicates that no one has really hit the nail on the head, yet."

According to Lange, everyone who has seen ORBAT Builder in action has realised its utility, and interest from a potential commercial partner is currently being explored.

Symbology engine a winner

One key, and popular, aspect of the ORBAT Builder is the use of a military standard symbology engine. Building ORBATs in PowerPoint for briefings is time consuming for staff. The symbology engine enables unit symbols to be customised to more accurately represent Australian Defence Force (ADF) unit capabilities than VIPA's ORBAT Editor which can only match about 80% of ADF unit capabilities.

Lange explains, "Users like the fact that they can add and modify symbols to suit Australian capabilities. Further, we took on-board feedback from the VIPA Data Manager to make it easier for editors to visualise customisable wire diagrams for the various force structures they were creating."

New task supporting analysis

Lange is now lead developer on a project known as VISA (Vital Infrastructure and Support Analysis), which is looking into techniques and technologies to improve Defence's awareness of infrastructure (i.e. facilities and services) in the national support base.

Lange believes, "By modelling the infrastructure out there, we can perform analysis to see whether, for a given operation the ADF wants to conduct, the infrastructure meets the requirements. We have been developing prototypes to help increase understanding of access arrangements, to map Defence's reliance on the national support base and to assess key vulnerabilities which may inform future infrastructure development projects and negotiation of access arrangements."

The aim of the task is to enable networked communities of logistics professionals from industry, government agencies and elsewhere to access and share accurate and up-to-date information about infrastructure. That information feeds into a national support picture where it is analysed, fused and assessed to enhance the Defence awareness of relevant infrastructure in the national support base and extending into potential theatres of operation.