Weather flight helps get iron to the fight

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Ramah Billings & James Risher
  • ACC Air Operations Squadron Weather Flight
Hidden away in a nondescript office in the Ryan Center here is the Air Combat Command Air Operations Squadron weather flight. To the blind eye this office looks just like many others here, but in reality the personnel occupying this space make a huge impact to our nation's defense.

When the Joint Chiefs of Staff or Air Combat Command directs the deployment of any Air Force, Navy, Marine or Allied combat aircraft, this team of 10 personnel ensure they have the most accurate, tailored and timely meteorological services available to them.

The AOS is designated the Department of Defense executive agent for the transoceanic delivery of combat aircraft. As an integral part of that squadron, the weather flight is the lead weather unit responsible for the official Controlling Mission Execution Forecast for all AOS-controlled fighter aircraft.

Additionally, the AOS weather flight provides specialized support to Global Power bomber missions, E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System and E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft movements throughout the world.

"Wherever combat aircraft need to go the AOS and this weather flight stand ready to get them there," said Master Sgt. Dave Lomack, weather flight NCO-in-charge. "We take great pride in our ability to get iron to the fight for the warfighter."

With a mission that is arguably strategic, the weather flight operations enhance the decision making process and help delivery controllers make informed go or no-go calls required for mission execution. In 2008 alone, the AOS launched almost 4,500 aircraft to their destinations as the operational experts responsible for combat aircraft delivery.

During an average AEF rotation month, the weather flight provides forecasts for more than 500 aircraft movements. While this keeps the flight at a fierce operations tempo, they know how important their role is.

"Each forecaster is keenly aware of the level of responsibility and importance their product plays in this critical mission," said Maj. Mike Marsicek, AOS weather flight commander. "One bad forecast can mean the difference between a single engine aircraft making it safely to their destination or not making it at all."

As stated in ACC Supplement to Air Force Manual 15-129, the AOS weather flight mission control forecast for aircraft movements must not be deviated from, except when required by immediate operational priority or safety of flight. And the team of NCOs charged with this mission comprises an equal mix of experience and dedication.

"They take their charge seriously and are committed to the creation of consistently high quality products," Major Marsicek said. "It is not unusual for our Controlling Mission Execution Forecasts to cross multiple operational weather squadron areas of responsibility."

The mission control forecast products serve two very important purposes. While helping the AOS Mission Control Center and the deployed Delivery Control Officer to make the informed go or no-go call when it's time to launch aircraft, the products also ensure forecasters at distant locations brief a coordinated forecast.

"Often tankers and receivers take off from separate locations, and are consequently briefed exclusive of one another," Major Marsicek said. "This product is there to make it easy to coordinate the forecast between aircrews delivering, and aircrews receiving, fuel for the designated air refueling tracks along the planned route of flight."

The actual mission control forecast is a compilation of a route-specific horizontal weather depiction, a forecast discussion and the forecasts and observations for the destination, alternate and aircraft abort bases for the mission. The CMEFs provide field units with everything they need to brief enroute weather, including flight level hazards, significant clouds or visibility and winds along with the brief forecast discussion.

The duty forecaster uses both civilian and military airfield forecasts along with current satellite images, pilot reports and any other available data to keep an eye on current weather along the flight path. The AOS weather flight personnel flight follow and mission watch all take-off, divert and destination bases for the mission from six hours prior to takeoff through to the last aircraft touching down at a destination base.

"Our weather flight may not be well known in most circles, but our mission is critical to the Department of Defense and to our allies," Sergeant Lomack said. "We take the responsibility of getting iron to the fight to a whole new level."