With more than 20,000 soldiers being restationed to Fort Bliss, Texas, during the next five years, the base is seeing the largest soldier influx of any installation resultant from the Base Realignment and Closure program. To accommodate the increase, the base must vastly increase its infrastructure and training facilities. In addition to accommodating relocating soldiers, Fort Bliss will transition from a training center to one of 15 designated U.S. Army power projection platforms within the continental United States.
The Army has enlisted the assistance of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Southwestern Division to complete the transformation of Fort Bliss. One of the critical facilities with which the Army has been tasked is a Digital Multipurpose Training Range (DMPTR) that will allow armored forces to train and qualify with an assortment of weapons systems. The USACE-Fort Worth District was made responsible for oversight of the Fort Bliss range improvement program, which will tie design line-of-sight data to base geographic information systems (GIS).
USACE-Fort Worth, in turn, has selected a team including SEI Group and HNTB Federal Services Corp. to complete the full design of the DMPTR. HNTB is designing the down-range civil portion of the armor range, as well as providing the structural and architectural designs for the DMPTR’s new range operations control area.
“By leveraging our design toolkit, we are helping SEI, the Fort Worth District and key Army and installation stakeholders design a more realistic training range with highly accurate line-of-sight (LOS) to target analysis,” said Scott Fehnel, Program Manager, HNTB.
This toolkit, called TrueViz OnTarget®, employs an iterative process to improve training capabilities, reduce unnecessary earthwork, decrease environmental impacts and minimize the expense of clearing areas of unexploded ordnance. The process can be applied to a spectrum of range types, including armor, small arms, convoy training, urban assault and aerial gunnery, and the toolkit can enhance both ranges in development and existing facilities in need of update.
First implemented in 2004, TrueViz OnTarget has been used to verify LOS for 15 range design projects with construction costs ranging from $15 million to $40 million per project. During those projects, a variety of benefits have been recognized:
- improved warfighting scenariobuilding to enhance training results, range sustainability and maintenance scheduling by providing the maximum target presentation flexibility possible;
- optimized training scenarios for multiple platforms through balanced target use, increased use of targets from firing positions and increased effectiveness of training on trails;
- early stakeholder integration, helping set realistic expectations prior to construction, encouraging buy-in and supporting more informed decision-making based on a number of outputs, including report formats, graphical presentations and simulations; and
- improved post-design applications during range development and construction, using the toolkit to verify training requirements and ensure that all expected training outcomes can be achieved or exceeded.
“The key to the design process is the designer’s ability to operate in the computer- aided design, geospatial and OnTarget environments simultaneously,” Fehnel said. “This interconnectivity permits a design change in one environment to be reflected in all.”
The TrueViz OnTarget system consists of seven tools: Combining these seven resources into one integrated system enables the design team and stakeholders to customize realistic training facilities.
LOS takes a holistic view of a site and provides tools that give users the ability to understand its full training capability. For example, where traditional software would have looked at individual LOS, TrueViz OnTarget simultaneously analyzes individual engagements and specific weapons platforms—whether ground training, aerial training, or both.
Site design examines the earthwork required to provide adequate LOS and provides designers with insight about how to adjust target locations to avoid unnecessary site grading, resulting in fewer disturbances to the environment and decreased cost.
Simulation allows users to visualize the design long before construction using computer-aided design and 3-D modeling.
A geospatial database is the result of the analysis. Here, users are able to interface with other geographical systems and develop spatial queries identifying training engagement opportunities.
Camera analysis,a critical part of the evaluation process, helps determine the number of cameras required on the range, their locations and the height of the towers on which they are mounted.
Aerial gunnery analysis allows users to evaluate aerial training. It incorporates both tree and ground surfaces.
Dismounted training analysis is used to review the movement of ground troops toward a specific objective and to understand the approach area to targets.
Additionally, the process allows stakeholders to view the finished product early in the design process through a fully-immersive 3-D simulation. In designing the Fort Bliss range, HNTB started with a highly-detailed topographic survey of nearly 1,500 acres and then overlaid and adapted standardized facility requirements to achieve an optimized training solution.
“A renovation of this scale requires a process that enables early validation of range capabilities,” said Robert Wilson, range officer at Fort Bliss. “The ability to test-drive and modify a training range’s design before breaking ground can have a significant impact on the project’s schedule, budget and training capabilities. As the design process has progressed, we have had minimal changes allowing us to clearly communicate the UXO clearance requirements and request the necessary funds well ahead of the 95 percent submittal.”
When the customized geospatial software is loaded with data from a proposed military range’s terrain, targets, trails and other factors, designers are able to optimize the design.
“With a clear understanding of target and trail locations, earthwork alternatives, and LOS analyses, we can assist master gunners in applying training requirements to the specific terrain. We are able to analyze more than a half a million firing position-to-target LOS quickly and efficiently,” Fehnel said.
LOS Data and the GIS User System
As part of the design effort, Fort Bliss will receive all LOS data in GIS/geospatial format. This database will inform users such as GIS specialists, range managers and safety officers about what they have received. The database will also inform decisions as to how the information can best verify the LOS, create effective training scenarios and integrate with surface-danger zone data.
“Our goal is to give range control personnel and trainers the opportunity to maximize their training facilities by knowing the full capabilities of the range,” said Randy Barker, HNTB engineering specialist. “We put LOS at their fingertips. By using the data we provide and the GIS system together, they can customize it and visualize it.”
As Barker points out, the integrated training area management community has worked in a mapping/spatial world for quite some time. Through this project, Fort Bliss is bringing the design intent into a GIS-based world. This exchange of digital information makes Fort Bliss the first military base to develop the capability to tie the design LOS to its GIS-based user system.