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Air Force Weather

 

Weather Hubs Work!!

CERVIA AIR BASE, Italy (AFPN) -- Some weather professionals were skeptical when the Air Force established regional weather hubs two years ago, but
a deployment with the 48th Expeditionary Operations Group has turned them into believers.

A Cervia weather team -- deployed here from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, and augmented by weather airmen from RAF Mildenhall, England, and Illesheim, Germany -- is in Italy supporting possible NATO actions in Kosovo and Yugoslavia. The forecasters and observers are operating under the Air Force's new weather hub concept that established regional weather
centers in key theaters throughout the world.

The team relies on support from one of the centers, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Operational Weather Squadron at Sembach Air Base, Germany, to provide accurate weather information for U.S. pilots flying throughout the
region.

Under the hub system, forecasters at the OWS forecast the weather for Cervia and other airfields, issue weather warnings and watches, and provide technical support for setting up equipment at deployed locations.

In fact, the OWS sent two weather communications experts to Cervia at the outset of the deployment to guarantee the deployed weather team had the best possible connection to OWS support.

This leaves deployed weather troops free to concentrate on their theater of operations and the local flying mission, according to Capt. Bob Kraetsch, the deployed team chief at Cervia.

"The system lets us operate as a combat weather team," said Kraetsch.
"We can focus our efforts on the area of responsibility and provide mission-tailored support to the people who fly the combat missions."

Kraetsch, who has 15 years of weather experience both as an officer and enlisted airman, said weather people on deployment had a more difficult job in years past.

"They would not only provide forecasts for the flying mission, they would spend time building local forecasts. This became even more difficult with decreased manpower throughout the Air Force," he said.

"It's the future of weather operations and it's not just for forecasts.
We were talking to the weather hub well before the deployment actually
kicked off, so we knew what to bring and who our point of contact would be at
the OWS," Kraetsch said.

"If I feel I'm not getting the support I need, I can pick up the phone
and call the OWS. They've been extremely helpful. We all had our doubts
about two years ago, but now we know the system works," he added.

One converted believer, Air Force weather forecaster Staff Sgt. Robbie
Ellis, said planning for a previous deployment to Cervia had a few more
bumps, as, "it was the first time we'd tried the new concept.

"The weather people arrived here and tried to do everything themselves,"
Ellis said. "Communication between the base and the OWS hub didn't
really kick in until well into the deployment.

"This time, things are different," he explained. "The key to the whole
system is communication between the team and the hub. When we arrived
here, we were talking almost immediately to Sembach."

The hub at Sembach uses forecast models and tools from around the world
to build accurate forecasts. These forecasts are then available to the pilots flying out of Cervia.

"Basically, only because of new computer technology and the hub's
advanced coordination can we take advantage of all the tools out there," said Ellis.

Accurate weather projection requires two-way communications, a team effort from both ends.

Deployed weather observers spend most of their days and nights outside,
gathering information on the conditions and reporting it back to
Sembach.  Sembach relies on the observations to provide accurate forecasts.
Observers say they especially watch cloud types, heights, visibility, and wind
speed and direction.

Senior Airman Tim Deehan is one observer deployed here from RAF
Lakenheath, who serves as the eyes and ears for the OWS hub.

"We're trying to paint the picture for the OWS," Deehan said, "and
they've given us some good feedback on what we send them."

"We're very proud of how well the weather hub concept has worked for
this deployment," said Col. Paul Harris, USAFE director of weather at
Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

"Our forecasting experts at Sembach spend their time producing quality
forecasts, which allows our deployed combat weather team to spend (its)
time focused on customer support," he said. "It's a very good team concept."
(Courtesy of USAFE News Service)

 
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