To appear in Journal of Computer and Mathematical Modeling: Special Issue on Defense Transportation

Continuous Management of Airlift and Tanker Resources: A Constraint-Based Approach

Stephen F. Smith (1), Marcel A. Becker (2) and Laurence A. Kramer (1)

(1) The Robotics Institute
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA

(2) Kestrel Institute
3262 Hillview Avenue
Palo Alto CA 94304 USA


Efficient allocation of aircraft and aircrews to transportation missions is an important priority at the USAF Air Mobility Command (AMC), where airlift demand must increasingly be met with less capacity and at lower cost. In addition to presenting a formidable optimization problem, the AMC resource management problem is complicated by the fact that it is situated in a continuously executing environment. Mission requests are received (and must be acted upon) incrementally, and, once allocation decisions have been communicated to the executing agents, subsequent opportunities for optimizing resource usage must be balanced against the cost of solution change. In this paper, we describe the technical approach taken to this problem in the AMC Barrel Allocator, a scheduling tool developed to address this problem and provide support for day-to-day allocation and management of AMC resources. The system utilizes incremental and configurable constraint-based search procedures to provide a range of automated and semi-automated scheduling capabilities. Most basically, the system provides an efficient solution to the fleet scheduling problem. More importantly to continuous operations, it also provides techniques for selectively re-optimizing to accommodate higher priority missions while minimizing disruption to most previously scheduled missions, and for selectively ``merging" previously planned missions to minimize non-productive flying time. In situations where all mission requirements cannot be met, the system can generate and compare alternative constraint relaxation options. The Barrel Allocator technology is currently transitioning into operational use within AMC's Tanker/Airlift Control Center (TACC). A version of the Barrel Allocator supporting airlift allocation was first incorporated as an experimental module of the AMC's Consolidated Air Mobility Planning System (CAMPS) in September 2000. In May 2003, a new tanker allocation module is scheduled for initial operational release to users as part of CAMPS Release 5.4.
Copyright 2003, Smith, Becker and Kramer. All rights reserved.
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