Weather ensures mission safety, success

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jarrod R. Chavana
  • 1st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Inclement weather has destroyed, crippled and delayed armies. For instance, a hurricane destroyed the Spanish Armada in 1588, and a harsh Russian winter crippled Napoleon Bonaparte's army in 1812.

Throughout history, militaries have relied on their weather specialists to help ensure mission success. For example, a single Navy weather observer gave the go ahead to Allied forces for June 6, 1944, D-Day.

Langley is no exception. Every sortie is subject to scrutiny by weather observers from the 1st Operations Support Squadron Weather Flight, who also provide support for the Army.

"The Air Force weather personnel provide environmental awareness to both the Air Force and the Army," said Tech. Sgt. Michael Mazucci-Mambala, 1st OSS weather forecaster. "The Army doesn't have its own weather service."

To ensure the safety of personnel and equipment, pilots are given a briefing called the mission execution forecast, said Senior Airman Nikole Vargas, 1st OSS weather forecaster. The briefing details cloud cover, sea states and other weather hazards.

High winds, low visibility and ocean waves over 10 feet tall are all factors that can cancel a mission, said Sergeant Mazucci-Mambala. If there are rough waters and winds over 25 mph, there is increased danger for both the pilot who has ejected and the rescue team.

Additionally, weather observers inform pilots what altitude to avoid so they can remain unseen, said Sergenat Mazucci-Mambala. Condensation in the air can leave contrails and give visual identification of any aircraft, even if it has stealth capabilities like the F-22 Raptor.

"Pilots are not allowed to fly without a weather briefing from us first," said Airman Vargas. 

This requirement fully integrates weather with the fighter squadrons as a safety protocol, said Airman Vargas. 

1st OSS weather personnel accompany Langley pilots to a temporary duty location if there is no weather support already there. This ensures pilots receive a proper weather briefing at any location.

"Its weather and it's something you can never get exactly right, unlike other career fields," said Sergeant Mazucci-Mambala. "But we can get it pretty close."