Improved weather technology on the way to warfighters

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- The Electronic Systems Center's Aerospace Management Systems Division Weather Systems Branch here is working to provide Air Force decision makers improved weather sensing and viewing capabilities.

Officials within the branch are working to bring the portable Doppler radar system developed by LaPoint-Blase Industries (EWR) of St. Louis, Mo., to Air Force weather specialists around the globe, providing three significant capabilities in one system: Doppler radar, transportability, and the ability to transmit data over the Global Information Grid.

"There have only been a few major advances in meteorology over the last 25 years -- one of which is Doppler radar," said Warren Humphrey, Joint Environmental Toolkit program management support contractor. "The Doppler radar allows us to see inside a storm and understand its structure more than we could previously, and through connection to the GIG it also allows weather operators to disseminate data much more rapidly than ever before."

Those advantages benefit both operators and end users.

"PDR allows weather operators to better forecast severe local storms and mission-limiting wind conditions," said Capt. Jon Beach, PDR program manager. "This is a very powerful system for the end user."

As technology has developed, the transportability has improved as well. That transportability is especially important for warfighters working in operations where there may be no radar coverage or weather-sensing technology.

"Previously, only large fixed radars, such as those which support the TV weather, allowed the radar user to see into a weather system's interior, into its cell, to determine factors such as wind shear," said Bill Drury, PDR deputy program manager. "Now we have a portable system which can be moved around in theater requiring only four people to set up in under 12 hours."

The data can be used in a stand-alone capacity, or transmitted net-centrically as well, over the Global Information Grid.

"The system can be configured so we can provide the information not only locally but also to military forecasters at regional forecast centers, who can tap into the data and provide it to the decision makers," said Mr. Drury.

The system recently completed government testing and was granted a full rate production decision. Initial operational capability is currently projected for mid- to late-December, and the system is anticipated to go directly to Southwest Asia to support ongoing operations.

"This system will give commanders in the field a significant weather tool which they don't currently have," said Captain Beach.