Implementing GeoBase at US Air Force Air Combat Command

Authors: Maj Steve Loken, Cliff Inbau, Mark Cave, and Richard Olivieri

Abstract: U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command (ACC) GeoBase delivers a comprehensive, integrated capability for the Air Force to attain, maintain, and sustain one geospatial information infrastructure supporting U.S. Air Force basing requirements.The vision is one Base and one map, or what is known as a Common Installation Picture (CIP). GeoBase is not a single application, but rather a concept of integrated operations.Successful GeoBase deployment involves strategic planning, data capture, data modeling, technology deployment, and training for mission sustainment.ACC uses Esri ArcInfo, ArcView, ArcIMS, and ArcSDE to provide commanders a CIP view of the Base installation.


U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command (ACC) GeoBase delivers a comprehensive, integrated capability for the Air Force to attain, maintain, and sustain one geospatial information infrastructure supporting U.S. Air Force basing requirements.The vision is one Base and one map, or what is known as a Common Installation Picture (CIP). GeoBase is not a single application, but rather a concept of integrated operations.Successful GeoBase deployment involves strategic planning, data capture, data modeling, technology deployment, and training for mission sustainment.ACC uses Esri ArcInfo, ArcView, ArcIMS, and ArcSDE to provide commanders a CIP view of the Base installation.

This paper is broken down into five major areas: GeoBase planning, system architecture, data integration, information sharing/support, and the future of GeoBase

ACC GeoBase Planning

The planning process was the first critical step in implementing GeoBase at HQ ACC.ACC GeoBase planning consists of preparing and distributing both strategic plans and guidance documents to the ACC GeoBase community.  Strategic plans provide the vision, goals and strategies for implementing GeoBase.GeoBase Guidance documents provide more detail procedures for implementing, using, and maintaining the GeoBase technologies and procedures – these are passed down to the ACC installation level for GeoBase sustainment.

Strategic Planning

The strategic planning process guided the HQ ACC efforts in developing, maintaining, and sustaining a GeoBase capability for ACC.Initially HQ ACC developed the following phased approach for implementing GeoBase.

During the early stages of implementing GeoBase a linear approach to the above phases was envisioned; however, to later a conjunctional phase method was utilized.

The first step in implementing GeoBase throughout ACC, was preparing the Strategy Phase, which focused on developing the strategic and implementation plans for HQ ACC and for each installation.The HQ ACC GeoBase Team visited each of the 17 ACC installations from April to September 2000.  The GeoBase Team met with key base personnel, interviewing them on needs and requirements for GeoBase.  The Team also collected existing geospatial data sets from each of the installations.

Following the site visits the GeoBase Team then prepared strategic plans for each installation.  The strategic plans included the following components:

GeoBase Guidance

During the initial stages of the ACC GeoBase effort, it was determined that guidance documents were necessary to support the GeoBase users and managers in the day-to-day management of GeoBase activities. Guidance documents are to be distributed down to the individual ACC installations for support of a wide range of activities such as quality assurance and quality control, data ownership and maintenance, data deliveries, and utility data collection.

Guidance documents are not static documents, but are revised periodically as the ACC GeoBase effort continues.

System Architecture

Standardization of a command wide system architecture within the Air Force is proving to be a complicated procedure.Existing GIS systems are “home-grown” and have been locally developed without higher headquarters guidance.Trying to create a standard base-level architecture is difficult.


General GeoBase Architecture

A map server and data server serving the bases intranet is envisioned at every ACC installation.  Users will have their own “working” data files, but publish the final copies on the data server.The important features are that the entire base must have access to the map server and there must be enough bandwidth to effectively support all users.An ongoing base-level server consolidation program within the AF is driving the location of the servers.


Hardware platforms can vary widely.Most existing desktop systems will handle the GIS applications.The number of potential users will drive the configuration of the intranet map and data servers


Software standardization is highly desired (but not required) because of the standard training required and for ease of sharing locally developed applications.    Military moving from base to base or deploying to different sites will have an easier time if the software is standardized.

Data Integration

The most crucial component of any information infrastructure is data. The success of any information system rests on its ability to integrate various and disparate data elements into a common interface that can be easily accessed and manipulated by all users. This combined data picture allows for the development of tools capable of exploiting the full power of modern information technology and provides the maximum utility to all system users.


The Initial Operating Capability of an installation refers to the minimum data requirements for maintaining full decision support functionality for all mission-critical systems. While installations vary greatly according to size, layout, and mission function, the definition for IOC is the same; this standardization is necessary to facilitate data-sharing across all installations and commands. IOC data layers typically contain aerial imagery, roads, buildings, facilities, airfield surfaces, installation perimeter and access points, fencing, towers, storage tanks, physiography, major utilities, and other large structures such as dams and bridges.


A primary component of IOC data is current imagery of the installation cantonment and surrounding areas. A high-resolution image of an installation is itself an instant map: the user needs little further explanation on what is being viewed. Aerial imagery, typically the highest resolution imagery available, is preferred but difficult to obtain. ACC has had most bases flown for imagery collection, but arranging these missions can be difficult and expensive. The alternative is satellite imagery provided by the DoD (NIMA) or commercial vendors such as Space Imaging and QuickBird. This imagery, while usually of a much lower resolution than aerial, is inexpensive (or free to the AF, as with NIMA Controlled Image Base) and can be obtained quickly. In many cases ACC has augmented aerial imagery of installation cantonments with 1-meter satellite imagery of adjacent ranges and surrounding areas. Imagery data is especially valuable when it is integrated with vector datasets to provide a complete geospatial picture.


            The initial function of newly acquired imagery is to serve as a basis for the collection of visible features. These features comprise the installation base map and are a majority of the IOC vector datasets. ACC GeoBase has created a standard data model to enable command-wide integration of geospatial feature data. This standardized model is compliant and compatible with the guidelines set forth by the CADD/GIS Technology Center’s Spatial Data Standards (SDS) and the Federal Geographic Data Committee’s National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI). A standard list of features that must be collected from (1 inch = 100 feet) imagery is given to the contractor performing feature extraction; this list contains the SDS entity set, class, type, coverage/shapefile designation, and minimum attribution for each type of collected feature. The feature data is in the form of 3-D shapefiles, giving each feature accurate (above ground) height and volumetric measurement data. The newly extracted features, in the standardized format, are used to update or complement existing geospatial data, and are given to base-level personnel for further, more detailed attribution. The updated feature datasets can now be integrated with other existing databases, such as real property or strategic planning, to provide instantaneous decision support to mission planners at both the base and command levels.

Field Collection

            The last step necessary for true geointegration is field data collection. The newest generations of Global Positioning System (GPS) survey equipment are able to record the positions of features as accurately as traditional line-of-sight methods, but can accomplish this much faster and can also attribute feature data. Data attribution for field crews is simplified through the use of preconfigured pull-down menus and pick-lists - this is not possible with traditional methods - and the data can be easily integrated with existing data for quick updates. GPS surveying also increases the locational accuracy of existing vector data: a manhole collected from a 6-inch resolution aerial photo is accurate to +/- 6 inches; the same manhole surveyed with GPS will now be locationally accurate to within +/- 2 centimeters. Tightening the spatial accuracy of feature data is one primary goal of field data collection, the other being the location and attribution of features not able to be extracted from imagery due to their size or obscureness. Many features can only be mapped by field survey, and outside of the standard feature list, each installation may have different survey and attribution requirements depending on its primary mission functions or business processes. Field collection enables the filling of all remaining geospatial data gaps with the ultimate flexibility of real-world, real-time mapping.

Information Sharing and Support


Master Data Wall

The Air Combat Command GeoIntegration Office has developed a MAJCOM level view of CONUS to support installation logistics and operations.This was achieved by implementing a Web enabled application, utilizing Esri ArcSDE, ArcGIS and ArcIMS, to manage and disseminate geospatial data to decision makers.  The application has been coined the phrase, “The Master Data Wall”.

The Master Data Wall system has an ArcSDE database used as a central repository for NIMA RPF and VPF datasets, Digital Aeronautical Flight Information Files (DAFIF), and Automated Air Facilities Information Files (AAFIF).  In addition, the database houses Air Force specific data, such as 1 Meter Air Force Controlled Image Base (AFCIB).  The data are accessible via ArcGIS for high-end analyses and cartographic compilation and/or an ArcIMS HTML thin client.

            The Master Data Wall is accessed via the Langley AFB intranet.  The web application serves as a Geo-Portal linked off of a main Java Server Page (JSP) from which the user can start from a world-view and drill down from 1:1,000,000 NIMA vector layers to 1 meter resolution orthoimagery in one interface.The user can locate and visualize an area via an airfield search, place name search, and/or coordinates with radius distance.  Once the user locates an area of interest, multiple NIMA and ACC datasets can overlay to create a user driven geographic footprint.         

            The Benefit of the Master Data Wall is a user at the Headquarters can visualize multiple bases in one ArcIMS View with a seamless coverage of datasets.The application is much like a map quest approach with the enhancements and capabilities to query vector attributes, access Air Force specific datasets, and build custom map views.

ArcIMS and Web Tools


            The Air Combat Command has developed a web site on the HQ ACC intranet, decision makers can access advanced installation specific ArcIMS map services.The installation specific map services contain advanced query capability in addition to the capability to access large-scale utility layers and 6-inch resolution orthophotography.The map services are accessed via the HTML client built off of a customized Java Archive (JAR) file.Each installation is its own map service and web site that are linked to a javascript web map contained on the main HQ ACC intranet JSP web page.   The future goal is to deploy the ArcSDE/ArcIMS system architecture and base-level intranet application, prototyped at HQ ACC, to 17 installations throughout CONOS/O-CONUS installations for Wing wide sharing of the Common Installation Picture.

ArcGIS Applications

            Currently ArcMap is used to access map services from the ArcIMS server combined with layers on the users hard drive to produce MS Powerpoint graphics and cartographic maps for hardcopy plots.  In addition, assuming the proper rights are given ArcMap is being used to modify the data in the ArcSDE database and added data components that are not accessible from the ArcIMS.There are customized ArcGIS applications being developed by Air Combat Command, using ArcObjects, for Emergency Response, Utilities mapping, Roof Management, and Airfield Pavement applications.Many users are still using ArcView 3.2 but there is a big push to migrate many of these legacy applications to ArcGIS.  ACC is aware of the new release of ArcGIS 8.2 and ArcIMS 4.0 to directly publish ArcMap projects to the intranet.  This will allow ACC to take full advantage of the data sharing capability.


ArcCatalog is used by the GIS database administrators, to manage the ArcSDE database and create, publish metadata.The CIP database administrator gives different users rights to access and browse data holdings on flat file servers, ArcSDE database, and the ArcIMS map services.


HQ ACC has begun the effort to implement and standardize GeoBase for the command.Policy and guidance are the first goals along with the necessary funding required to implement GeoBase at all 17 ACC installations.

The future of ACC GeoBase is now being greatly guided by the Air Staff, and rightfully so.The Headquarters Air Force Geo Integration Office (HAF GIO) was formed in July 2001 to implement and standardize GeoBase for the U.S. Air Force.The HAF GIO is taking many of the lessons learned from the command and base-level and creating a well thought out policy for effective implementation.