TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
As one arm of the tri-agency funded and staffed Radar Operations Center in Norman, a small group of Airmen work closely with the National Weather Service and Federal Aviation Administration to perform maintenance on a network of radars around the world.
The network includes 159 Weather Surveillance Radar – 1988 Dopplers, also called Next Generation Weather Radars.
An operating location of the 1st Weather Group out of Offutt Air Force Base, the team of two Airmen and 10 civilians work daily at the Max Westheimer Airport, relying on units at Tinker Air Force Base for personnel support services.
Supervisory Meteorologist Randy George, acting chief of the ROC unit, said their office is often confused with the NWS forecast office at the National Weather Center, but the ROC does not do weather forecasting.
“Depot sustaining, engineering, modification and software maintenance (of radars) summarizes our day-to-day job. (Part of our) team takes care of system engineering and the continual need for communication and security updates to the system,” George said.
“Those drive a lot of the updates that have to go out into the field. There (are) always improvements that are made in hardware.”
Additionally, the team helps man a 24-hour call center where Department of Defense, NWS and FAA WSR-88D radar operators around the world call to report and troubleshoot problems.
Constantly updating maps show the operational status of each radar, allowing the Airmen to proactively contact the radar staff if there is a status change.
George said the extensive network of radars was established by the DOD, NWS and FAA to forecast weather for the general public, maintain safe aviation operations, enhance the economy, and, of course, for “resource protection.”
Through support of the maintenance of the network, the unit assists in those missions.
“(Resource protection) means (to) make sure your troops and your airplanes and everybody has adequate weather warning information so that they’re not caught up in bad weather,” George said.
Supervisory Engineer Chris Gilbert said their team maintains infrastructure to make sure downtime is “next to nothing” and Air Force bases have constantly updating weather feeds.
“From a system engineering point of view, we maintain not only cybersecurity, but also the communications. Reliable communications are heavily needed to support the Air Force mission,” Gilbert said.
The team works closely with the NWS and FAA, taking advantage of what George said is the “federal weather community” in Norman.
“There’s a lot of people involved in radar innovation in Oklahoma, and the university here and the campus here with the (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) partners. Everybody’s involved a little bit with this radar technology, and this is really a neat place to be for all that,” George said.
“There’s a lot going on down here and we’re a big part of it. We’re glad to be here and feel like we make a contribution to the national weather program overall.”