Board of Dir.
Serving the Present... Remembering the Past...
Air Force Weather
— PROVEN IN COMBAT
Brig Gen Fred P. Lewis with Lt Col Ralph O. Stoffler
Air Force Weather reengineering efforts have rapidly moved forward
over the last year. Our new
concept of operations was used to support operations in the Balkans, Southwest
Asia, the Pacific, and Central/South America with good success. In the following paragraphs, I will look back to last year
and draw you a mental picture of how our outstanding people supported
Operation ALLIED FORCE in the Balkans.
Let me begin with several vignettes.
A three-person Combat Weather Team (CWT) arrives via C-141 at RAF Fairford
on a cloudy morning in March. They
are there to support the
B-52s that are waiting for their call for combat over Serbia and
Kosovo. As the Lieutenant
enters base operations, she meets the Operations Group Commander, who
informs her that she is expected to brief the first weather update in
50 minutes. Using the base
operations Internet terminal, she quickly downloads the latest Commanders weather briefing, in PowerPoint format, the latest Joint
Operations Area Forecast (JOAF) bulletin, and other pertinent information
from the USAFE Operational Weather Squadron (OWS) homepage.
Downloading the products into her New Tactical Forecast System
(NTFS) laptop she is able to prepare an accurate, relevant briefing for
her deployed wing’s leadership and aircrews on the weather situation
over the Balkans. Now she moves over to the classified terminal in the
Command Post and looks at target forecasts on the OWS classified Internet
homepage. Well armed with
information she gives an accurate, relevant weather briefing in less than
an hour after she arrived. This
was but the first of many briefings that demonstrated how teamwork between
the OWS and a CWT paid big dividends for the warfighters.
A five-person CWT arrives via C-130 at Cervia, Italy.
Cervia has no US weather personnel and limited indigenous weather
services. The CWT is here to support a variety of fighter squadrons.
Some of the squadrons are from US European Airbases, some are from
the CONUS, and others are allied squadrons.
A member of a deployed Weather Systems Support Cadre (WSSC) from
Sembach Air Base meets the CWT upon their arrival. The WSSC and CWT quickly
accomplish site selection for the weather equipment, the NATO Very Small
Aperture Terminal (VSAT) and Small Tactical Terminal (STT). While the
equipment is being setup, the CWT Officer-in-Charge (OIC) contacts the
USAFE OWS. He informs the
OWS of their arrival and identifies the CWT’s immediate weather
information requirements. As
the OIC returns to his duty section, the data already has begun to flow
on their VSAT terminal and the first weather satellite images are already
on the STT. Promptly, on
the hour, the CWT transmits its first observation via the NATO VSAT.
Within a few hours, the USAFE OWS has issued the first Terminal
Aerodrome Forecast (TAF) for Cervia.
Late that afternoon, the CWT is briefing the first Combat Air Patrol
missions over the Balkans. Over the next several days, the OWS and CWT
teams hone their operations. The
ridgeline west of the base and the nearby Adriatic Sea have definite impacts
on the local weather forecast, and the CWT passes their local-effects
assessment to the OWS. Then the OWS incorporates this information into
their forecast process, which improves the TAFs. Teamwork in action delivered
rapid, positive results for the deployed warfighters again!
The two-person CWT for deployed F-117s (stealth fighters) has been operating
at a fixed base in Germany. They
too, are equipped just like the Cervia team. They brought their own STT
and were provided a NATO VSAT when they arrived in theater.
Over the last few days, the F-117s have been striking targets in
Serbia. The latest Air Tasking
Order from the planners has more targets laid in for tonight’s missions. The latest mesoscale forecast products from the USAFE OWS show
that the proposed F-117 targets will have marginal weather conditions
at best. As launch time grows
closer the CWT intensifies their watch on the weather over the target
area. Radar data from the
NATO VSAT and high-resolution DMSP satellite data from STT clearly show
that weather will be unfavorable for tonight’s mission.
The CWT briefs the deployed wing commander, and he elects to scrub
the missions in order to save combat critical resources and avoid sending
pilots into harms way with minimal chance of success. That night the weather
was observed unfavorable, just as briefed.
The CWT supporting the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) where the
air war is being controlled advises the CAOC duty controllers that in
12 hours there will be a short break in the bad weather over Serbia. They
estimate the break will last only 1-2 hours, and are confident that after
the morning fog/stratus breaks there will be scattered conditions before
the afternoon thunderstorms form. The planned strike package that was
on weather hold is prepared for launch even though the conditions are
currently unfavorable. Tankers
launch 5-7 hours before the planned strike, and the fighters launch 2-3
hours before the strike based on the CWT forecast for favorable weather
even though the weather over the strike area is unfavorable at launch
time. The strike package
hits the tanker and heads for the target area as the break is just beginning
to occur. As the strike package
is 20 minutes out, the weather is favorable, just as forecast, and the
missions are a success. The
strong teamwork between the USAFE OWS, the CAOC CWT, and the CWTs paid
The Air Mobility Operations Control Center (AMOCC) at Ramstein Air Base,
Germany is providing one-stop flight services for all airlift support
missions in the Balkans theater, and weather support is part of this service.
Each evening the AMOCC controllers pass the mission schedule for the next
day to the USAFE OWS. The flight-briefing cell at the OWS coordinates with the AMOCC
and local CWTs, and the next day, as aircrews receive their Flight Plans,
the weather briefing is included in the package.
Sometimes the briefing is e-mailed, sometimes faxed, but it is
always there. The briefings
are stored in the USAFE OWS central computer server, which can be accessed
by people in the OWS or the supporting CWTs.
Aircrews at over 30 fixed and deployed bases throughout Europe
are efficiently supported in this manner, allowing the CWTs to focus on
better supporting the aircrews, by working right in the fighter and airlift
squadrons' operations areas.
Only the duty observer is on shift at Ramstein CWT.
An inbound aircraft calls the Ramstein Pilot to Metro Service (PMSV)
and asks for a weather update.
is a C-5 enroute to the Balkans from the CONUS. The remote switch on the PMSV automatically relays the call
to the USAFE OWS. The flight
weather-briefing cell quickly answers the call and provides the information
requested. Moments later,
a C-17 is on final approach to Ramstein, and the crew needs the latest
Ramstein weather observation. This
time the duty observer answers the PMSV call and passes the information
directly. By using integrated equipment, the CWTs and OWS provide better
support to the aircrews and allow CWT personnel to work directly in the
flying squadrons and tailor support to the aircrews.
After weeks of intensive bombing missions, there is a break in action.
As the diplomatic corps step in, combat squadrons throughout the
Balkans are ordered to stand down, and the CWTs stand down with the rest
of the team. The OWS has
the stick while the CWTs take a well-deserved break.
Bare base CWTs move to limited duty observations only while the
CWTs collocated with major airports or allied bases stand down completely. The OWS continues to issue 24-hour TAFs and has full responsibility
for severe weather resource protection support.
The OWS has a point of contact at each CWT, and if severe weather
is expected, the USAFE OWS notifies the local units.
Teamwork in action has allowed our people to take a well-deserved
break from days of 12-hour shifts.
Is this all wishful thinking or an ideal dream?
No, this is the reality that occurred during Operation ALLIED FORCE
in the Balkans. This is Air
Force Weather reengineering
in action. During Operation
ALLIED FORCE, our three-tiered approach for providing operational weather
support by combining the efforts of the Strategic Centers, USAFE OWS,
and the CWTs was brought to reality.
The Air Force Weather Agency at Offutt AFB and the Air Force Combat
Climatology Center at Asheville provided overarching hemispheric products,
fine-scale modeling for targeting on the battlefield, and high-resolution,
The USAFE OWS produced a variety of products from theater scale
to target scale to include PowerPoint slides for detailed briefings and
Joint Operations Area Forecasts for the theater.
The CWTs worked in close conjunction with their operators to ensure
that each mission achieved success.
The CWTs applied USAFE OWS products in conjunction with their own
now-casting information to ensure the warfighters had the right weather
information to help them put bombs on target.
The combined cooperation of all three tiers of Air Force Weather,
coupled with effective equipment and communications spelled success not
for just for Air Force Weather, but it helped contribute to the overall
success of the Kosovo Air Campaign. The meteorological focus of the USAFE
OWS and careful mission focus of the CWTs helped aircrews exploit the
poor European spring weather and maximize operations during the limited
favorable weather windows. The
success we achieved during Operation ALLIED FORCE certainly sets the stage
for the future. As reengineering
is completed, worldwide, we will truly be a lean, mean force that will
continue to bring even more value-added support to the operators.
We are extremely proud of how far our Total Force Air Force Weather
capability has come over the last several years as we dramatically improved
the quality of the weather support for our Air Force and Army operators,
warfighters, and trainers. Yes,
much of our structure, operations, training, and procedures could be viewed
as strikingly similar to those of years past when many of you, members
of the AWA, were on watch for our great Nation and Air Force. We have learned from our past making our future even brighter.
We’re extremely proud of you, our great Air Force Weather
heritage, and our many Air Force Weather heroes.
Thank you all for being part of this heritage, and I ask you for
your continued support as we move forward into the 21st Century.
Gen Fred P. Lewis is the USAF Director of Weather (AF/XOW); Lt Col Ralph
O. Stoffler was the first commander of the USAFE Operational Weather Squadron
in Sembach AB, Germany, and is now on the AF/XOW staff at the Pentagon