By Kelly Ann Dewitt, AMRDEC Public AffairsMarch 10, 2015
FORT BENNING, Ga. (March 10, 2015) -- Need to generate a precise grid coordinate to call for indirect fire or close air support? There's an app for that.
The Maneuver Aviation Fires Integrated Application, or MAFIA, is revolutionizing the way small units call for indirect fire. MAFIA was created by the Software Engineering Directorate of the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.
MAFIA was one of 66 technologies participating in the recent iteration of the Army Expeditionary Warfighter Experiment at Fort Benning, Georgia. AEWE is the Training and Doctrine Command's premier live, prototype experimentation campaign.
Michael V. Murray, government lead and training coordinator, Battlefield Operations Software Suite team, Software Engineering Directorate describes MAFIA as a collaborative software application that allows Fire Supporters and Maneuver small unit leaders to generate precision coordinates for accurate, timely, and predictable fires..
"It is a fire support application that allows Fire Supporters at the company level, or maneuver unit small leaders to accurately locate a target and to then engage that target with indirect fire, close air support, or attack aviation," Murray said.
Unique to MAFIA is a SED-developed 3D mapping engine, called Army Global Engine (AGE). The program is 100 percent Army developed and government owned. "What makes it so great is rather than having to be networked to upload the maps, we are completely network independent -- all of the imagery and cartography is loaded on the phone," Murray said.
MAFIA currently operates on an Android system, but is system agnostic -- which means it can perform on any platform. It is co-hosted with the Army Nett Warrior system, which provides hand-held mission command at a tactical level.
The MAFIA software application was created after the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning and the Fires Center of Excellence at Fort Sill, Oklahoma saw the need to combine two existing applications into a more robust application.
"AMRDEC started to develop the squad precision targeting application, which was being designed for a small unit maneuver leader," Murray said. That application was brought to an earlier iteration or spiral of AEWE.
At the same time, the FCOE was changing their hand-held solution, Pocket Sized Forward Entry Device, to an Android based version, called Forward Observer System Mobile.
"FOS Mobile had a very robust communications engine, and digital messaging," Murray said. "What they didn't have was a robust map engine. But we did."
Murray and the MAFIA team worked with both the Maneuver and Fires Centers of Excellence to merge the applications to create one integrated fires solution for both War Fighting Functions.
"AMRDEC worked very hard to bring the three centers represented in the name MAFIA together," Murray said.
According to Murray, MAFIA also provides users at the tactical edge the ability to receive and view full motion video from a variety of Unmanned Aerial Systems and Soldier Borne Sensors enabling Beyond Line of Sight situational awareness and the ability to conduct BLOS Targeting.
During AEWE, MAFIA was also configured to control InstantEye, a small quad copter-style Soldier Borne Sensor directly from the End User Device (EUD) with MAFIA removing the need for the operator to carry an additional organic controller. The focus was on full motion video receipt and "beyond line of sight" targeting using various UAS platforms, or soldier borne sensors. "The operator can fly InstantEye, maneuver it to an area 1,000 meters away, look at it, and target it," using MAFIA Murray said.
MAFIA shows a split screen with full motion video on the left side and the AGE map engine on the right. "The user locates their target on the FMV side of the screen, performs terrain association between the two views and simply touches the AGE map on the right side of the screen where the target is located. They can do a full call for fire off of that touch."
That simple touch on the screen has the ability to generate a precision coordinate required to engage a target with a coordinate seeking precision munitions.
"The ease of use, the map engine, the ability to have that fidelity of the map and imagery at the tactical edge is very impressive," said Murray, who is a retired Army Targeting Warrant Officer who performed calls for fire and targeting on active duty. "When I was out there running around, you had a map, a compass, and a pair of binos. There's nothing wrong with having that skill set, but when you can take this device and remove the guess work and get a CAT 1 grid coordinate, that's impressive."
One of the key takeaways from AEWE and other similar exercises is the feedback provided by the ultimate user -- the Soldier.
"Feedback from the Soldiers has been very positive," Murray said. "The software on the phone is super easy to use, very intuitive."
One of the Soldiers using the technology during the recent spiral of AEWE was 1st Lt. Cole W. Holland, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Brigade, 2nd Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wa.
"What MAFIA does is allow for timely and accurate fires," Holland said. "One of the key components is the "wheel of death" -- graphic that populates on the screen. As InstantEye flies, the 3D map engine (AGE) orients itself to what the InstantEye sees. If a Forward Observer sees a target, they just basically touch that target marker, accept it, or refine it, and send in to MAFIA to generate a call to fire."
Holland said it took very little time to adjust to the user-friendly application. Although he did note some areas where the application could be improved, he stated he would be comfortable deploying with it.
It is the third year MAFIA has participated in AEWE and program participants and developers agree the system improves with each spiral based on user feedback.
"MAFIA has been one of the most successful programs we have seen here at the MCOE," said Harry J. Lubin, Chief, experimentation branch, Maneuver Center of Excellence.
"There has been a true partnership between the MCOE and the FCOE. Because of the continued development and work here and at Fort Sill, demonstrated using UAS, we can now have precision calls for fire over the horizon, which is an incredible capability for the small unit. We've never had anything like that before."
While Murray expects the technology in MAFIA to continue to evolve, the existing system is scheduled to be part of a rapid deployment initiative. The application is scheduled to travel on an upcoming deployment with an unnamed Infantry Brigade. Complete fielding is earmarked for Fiscal Year 2017.
The Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.
RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.