Weather forecasters give aircrews upper hand

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Samantha S. Crane
  • 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office
Despite all the latest advances in aviation technology, weather remains the one factor mission planners can't control. They look forward to clear days and predictable weather knowing high winds, low visibility and rain or snow can make even the most routine missions challenging.

This is something Staff Sgt. Jeremy Olivier and Senior Airman Eric Huff understand well. As Air Expeditionary Red Flag weather forecasters from Mountain Home Air Force Base, they provide aircrews with up-to-date weather forecasts used to execute daily missions and plan for future operations during the three-week air combat exercise here. 

Weather forecasters provide mission commanders with critical data used to make the decision whether to fly based on the predicted weather for the day. Safety is a priority for the forecasters and mission commanders. If the conditions aren't good enough for aircrews and to safely complete their missions, it could mean rescheduling their flights.

Based on their information, aircrews know the best route to take at the optimal time to ensure the best chances for mission success.

"We provide weather for mission planning including take off and recovery conditions, range conditions, flight hazards and solar and lunar data," said Sergeant Olivier.

Aircrews and schedulers rely on this information to make informed tactical decisions based on the weather conditions during their flying period.

"They have to know what they'll encounter," said Sergeant Olivier.

The forecasters also provide aircrews with tactical decision aids, which combine munitions information and weather data to generate the best angles of attack aircrews should use when dropping weapons on enemy positions.

As the only weather forecasters for Red Flag 09-3, Sergeant Olivier and Airman Huff conduct all mission briefings for aircrews preparing for the day's missions. They also provide individually requested weather briefs as needed.

"My briefing skills have really improved [since arriving at Red Flag]," said Airman Huff. "You interact with aircrews a lot more and see how your forecast directly affects the mission."

Red Flag features more than 90 aircraft, 2,000 personnel and 27 U.S. and allied units based around the world. Established in 1975, the exercise takes place on the 15,000-square-mile Nevada test and Training Range located north of Las Vegas.