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ArcGIS provides British Forces with a single, authoritative source of geospatial data so we have a common operational picture for military operations.

Sharing intelligence and improving situational understanding in theatre

Part of the Ministry of Defence, JAGO provides vitally important geospatial services to support the British Armed Forces. The organisation used solutions from Esri’s ArcGIS platform to develop a mobile GIS capability that is transported into war zones to provide military teams with up-to-date, accurate situational intelligence.

The Customer

Within the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MOD), the Joint Aeronautical Geospatial Organisation (JAGO) is responsible for providing geospatial capabilities to support British Forces. In particular, the organisation develops, supports and manages geospatial Information Systems for use by 42 Engineer Regiment (Geographic) in operations at home and overseas.

The GIS solution, named DataMan, provides British Forces with a single, authoritative source of geospatial data – a common operational picture – for military operations

The 42nd Engr Regt uses DataMan to quickly produce accurate, customised briefings in hostile situations, such as conflict zones

Commanders can make faster tactical and strategic decisions, with the assurance that they are acting on the most up-to-date data and intelligence

The Challenge

The geospatial analysts of 42 Engr Regt (Geo) are required to employ their geospatial analysis and cartographic skills in cramped and very basic conditions in some of the world’s most inhospitable and dangerous environments. Operating with limited resources in small numbers, they work closely with UK forces and their coalition partners to collect local intelligence, analyse data and produce up-to-date mapping and briefing services for commanders.

Over time, the volume of data handled by the organisation had grown rapidly, leading to a number of data management challenges. Like many organisations, JAGO had built its capability around many individual desktop systems with no central data repository. This was resulting in multiple versions of the same data sets. “We needed to manage our data better to create a single view of the truth,” says Keith Mosley, capabilities development manager at JAGO. “At the same time, we also wanted to take advantage of new web services architectures to deliver data more effectively to military personnel, at home and in theatre.”

“ We needed to manage our data better to create a single view of the truth. At the same time, we also wanted to take advantage of new web services architectures to deliver data more effectively to military personnel, at home and in theatre

Keith Mosely –  Capabilities Development Manager

The Solution

JAGO developed a joined-up solution to extend and optimise its existing geospatial systems. It called upon Esri UK to help develop a new centralised system using Esri ArcGIS Server technology. The system called DataMan provides a central repository for all of JAGO’s geospatially referenced data and delivers data and mapping services to users via an easy to use web-browser interface over secure networks.

JAGO also received support from Helyx Secure Information Systems, a specialist defence consulting firm and Esri UK business partner. Mosley said: “We have a very close relationship with both Esri UK and Helyx and receive an excellent service from them.” When they are dispatched into hostile environments, teams from 42 Engr Regt (Geo) take everything they need to deploy DataMan within a set of ruggedised green boxes. An integral SQL server database manages the data; a web server handles the SharePoint web portal; and a GeoProxy facilitates the connection to the external network. The whole system can be active and accessible within hours.

JAGO also built a browser based application called GeoViewer using Esri’s Flex application programming interface (API) to access web services remotely and securely. GeoViewer makes it easy for engineers to add and manage data, perform analysis and print on demand. JAGO has developed different versions of its GeoViewer to meet the needs of teams in specific regions, such as a “Helmand GeoViewer” for use in southern Afghanistan.

“ Esri UK has helped us deliver a new level of understanding. We couldn’t do what we do without the support we get from Esri UK and Helyx

Keith Mosely –  Capabilities Development Manager

The Benefits

DataMan was launched in March 2010 and within nine months was receiving over two million hits per month from a wide range of users throughout the command chain. This rapid take-up is testimony to its ease-of-use and relevance to day to day operations. Users at all levels, with little or no GIS experience, can quickly access the same data – whether they are in barracks, on a training exercise or in theatre.

Users connect to DataMan and know that they are looking at the latest information. In the past, analysts would have worked from data CDs which meant it was difficult to track versions. “DataMan provides a single authoritative source of geospatial data for military operations,” says Mosley. “When anyone pulls data from DataMan they know that it is the best available, the most appropriate and the most up-to-date.”

This capability enables 42 Engr Regt (Geo) to quickly produce customised briefings in theatre, displaying information on everything from the likely locations of roadside bombs to the ethnicity of local communities.

Other organisations and agencies have been encouraged by the rapid adoption of DataMan and share data through the system. There are now over 350 data layers ranging from aerial reconnaissance and intelligence from ground patrols; through to information that was held by external organisations in spread sheets, such as lists of medical facilities in Afghanistan. This data is accessible to all units and partners working in the vicinity.

DataMan is used by commanders to inform orientation exercises, assess threats, plan missions, determine patrol routes, organise operational and tactical activities and conduct post-operation reviews. Because it delivers a wider range of reliable and current information – it is improving the quality and speed of tactical and strategic decision making. Mosley explains: “DataMan helps to improve situational awareness and understanding. Commanders can make better decisions about where they go and where they don’t go, based on a better understanding of current threats. It’s helping to save lives.”

“ DataMan helps to improve situational awareness and understanding. Commanders can make better decisions about where they go and where they don’t go, based on a better understanding of current threats. It’s helping to save lives

Keith Mosely –  Capabilities Development Manager

The Future

It has long been JAGO’s goal to deliver a common geospatial picture to the widest possible range of users – not just geo specialists. With the development of DataMan, JAGO believes that it is well on the way towards achieving this goal. It is extending the reach of its new capability, so that it can add value across more defence organisations.

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