Mapping the land & joint battlespace.


Making use of digital geospatial information to prepare, infiltrate and dominate the land battlespace is still the privilege of higher echelons of command, able to access and exploit multiple sources of intelligence. But the rise of on-board or personal networked terminals is also offering rich functionalities to insert land forces in complex human and natural terrain.

As seen in the earlier section of this Compendium the digital battlespace has been enabled by a revolution in geospatial information technologies. Increased resolution sensors, automated production tools, and standardised dissemination formats are shaping the way military operations are planned and led. The particularly complex land environment, obstructed by weather, elevation, vegetation and human activity, is to benefit massively from this augmented digital description. However, this process differs widely between the higher-level generation of a god's eye view, and the lower tactical echelon, constrained by limited connectivity and onboard information processing.


An attempt at building a cross-domain, foundation of geospatial intelligence (Geoint) from legacy and new geospatial information surfaced in mid-2014 under the ambitious Map of the World project launched by the National Geospatial intelligence Agency (NGA). This initiative aims at creating a single common exchange service, acting as an anchor point to link natural and man-made features and explore semantic content attached to geospatial objects, from physical description to embedded intelligence. Later in the year, NGA awarded BAe Systems Intelligence & Security sector a $335 million contract to develop, maintain and disseminate Geoint from Map of the world; BAe had already contracted with NGA to explore activity-based intelligence to support dynamic analysis. Harris then received a $770 million, five-year contract to create geospatial data products, eliminating redundant data to store the most current representation of each geospatial feature. NGA awarded two more millions to five companies meeting innovation challenges to exchange large data sets using datalink technology, mitigate conflicting data from various sources, or develop a framework for data ingestion, analysis and dissemination supporting user-generated content.

The Map of the World project is a clear breakaway from static to dynamic information; in its final form in 2020, it will use big data analytics to integrate information from imagery, digital maps, maritime and air safety data, as well as social media, to generate a highly documented object of interest and thereby answer particular queries from non-specialists. Released in summer 2004 as an initial operational capability, the project was able to integrate information from 12 heterogeneous legacy sources under a unified format, to serve Geoint requirements of 17 agencies in America. The metadata-tagged content is generated across the defence and intelligence communities in a cloud-ready, web-based environment. Access is facilitated through the Globe, a web portal where accredited analysts can search an object of interest in space and time, generating layers of geospatial information around a target site or a mere individual. Published in highly standardised formats, this information is meant to be portable, with connected and disconnected users able to browse petabytes of content and update it on an on-demand, user-defined basis. A follow-on to the enterprise geospatial information projects of the early 2000s, Map of the World is the most ambitious geospatial initiative to date, and will inspire similar initiatives in other nations, already committed to unify environmental information services.

The US Army embarked in a similar endeavour with the Army's Geospatial Center's Common Map Background. This programme is bridging NGA and Army content, to ease access to a broad range of geospatial information products (from digital elevation models to geopdf files) from users in the field. Access will be granted through a web portal, with datasets made available in standardised format, and dissemination allowed through an FTP site, DVD, or external disk drive. Afghanistan was chosen as the first implementation, giving way to standardised data sets of the countries geospatial features.


The notion of shared situational awareness can be simply defined to answer the critical "who's where" question in military operations. In its ultimate form, it is delivered as a Common Operational Picture (COP); but this multi-layered, geo-located view has hardly become a reality in higher headquarters, challenged by a refined description of the operational environment, defined as the Recognised Environmental Picture. The REP is an ambitious endeavour to describe in digital formats all aspects of the operational...

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