Owning the Weather: Weather Support to Force XXI
by Richard J. Szymber
We must own the environment and the night, operating
unrestricted in adverse weather conditions.
Army Focus 1994
The history and lessons of weather and war are
enduring. Historically, weather has decisively impacted
battlefield success, and warfighters prepared to exploit the
effects of weather and terrain will benefit in any battle. In the
timeless words of Sun Tzu from The Art Of War written over 2000
years ago: "Know the enemy, know yourself; your victory will never
be endangered. Know the ground, know the weather; your victory will
then be total." Instead of reacting to the weather with a
cope-and-avoid mentality, Force XXI warriors will anticipate and
Owning the Weather
"Owning the Weather" is about understanding, anticipating, and
exploiting the impacts of weather on both friendly and threat
capabilities to gain a warfighting edge over enemy forces. Owning
the Weather (OTW) will soon provide Force XXI an effective
"all-weather" mission capability by giving the warfighter the
information he needs to fight and operate smart weapons and
munitions in all weather conditions. It will enable commanders and
soldiers to fully exploit tactics that maximize the weather-related
advantages our forces have over the threat.
OTW is the use of advance knowledge of battlefield environmental
conditions and their effects on friendly and threat soldiers,
systems, operations and tactics in order to gain a decisive
advantage over opponents. It involves exploiting and improving the
weather-derived technological advantages of our battlefield
operating systems (BOS) over hostile systems, making adverse
weather a force multiplier. OTW enables the commander to anticipate
the impending impacts of weather on friendly and threat
capabilities for exploiting windows of advantage created by weather
The OTW operational strategy for battlefield weather exploitation
involves a three-step process. First, a variety of battlefield
sensing systems must observe and collect in real time the actual
meteorological conditions for the area of operations, including
critical, data-denied target areas. Then, this information must be
processed, analyzed, and disseminated rapidly to the user. The
input of the observational data into models is essential for
forecasting atmospheric conditions and their effects. The final
step concerns the combat application of the observations, forecasts
and effects, and their transformation into usable battlefield
weather- visualization products. These include weather analysis
displays for the intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB)
and automated weather-effects decision aids.
Weather conditions must be observed before they can be forecast and
ultimately converted into weather intelligence. No single sensing
system can supply all the diverse observations required.
Therefore, a variety of complementary space-based, airborne, and
ground-based sensing systems will provide observations at the
required accuracies, resolutions, and coverages. The data collected
from every available source is validated and combined with
appropriate models to build a complete, detailed, and accurate
horizontal and vertical picture of the atmosphere and weather over
the full extent of the battlefield. Future sensing capabilities
(2005 through 2010) to support Force XXI will include
meteorological satellites, meteorological sensors on unmanned
aerial vehicles, and dropsondes, automatic meteorological surface
sensors, and tactical atmospheric profilers.
The Integrated Meteorological System (IMETS) serves as the
integration (fusion) point for the weather data from a variety of
It is an automated, tactical, mobile, weather-data system designed
to provide decision-aid information and timely weather- and
environmental-effects forecasts to appropriate command elements.
For lower echelons without direct weather support (for example,
brigade and below), software on command and control systems will
allow them to request weather information from a division IMETS and
produce weather effects decision aids, using weather data passed
through the ABCS. IMETS capabilities will include
- National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental
Satellite System (NPOESS) and the U.S. and foreign Geostationary
Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) transmit real-time space
- Automatic Meteorological Sensor Systems (AMSSs) placed at
key locations will transmit real-time surface weather and
ground-state data over area communications.
- The Field Artillery's Target Area Meteorological Sensors
System (TAMSS) atmospheric profiler and Computer Assisted Artillery
Meteorology (CAAM) model will broadcast upper-air weather profiles
via Mobile Subscriber Equipment (MSE).
- UAV target area weather observations will reach the IMETS
in near-real time through the UAV ground control station.
- In addition to the Army Battle Command System (ABCS)
tactical communications architecture for IMETS data collection, the
Low Earth Orbiting Satellites (LEOSATs) will soon transmit sensed
weather data to the IMETS.
OTW will provide a digitized, real-time, dynamic shared picture of
the battlespace weather, and its effects for IPB, to support
mission planning and rehearsal, situational awareness, synchronized
battle management, and advanced decision and execution support. The
IMETS will collect data from various sources and disseminate timely
battlescale weather information to multiple command elements via
the ABCS. Tactical Decision Aids (TDAs) and displays resident on
computers of the BOSs will use this information to provide
warfighters with real-time and predicted environmental effects on
operations. Additionally, at the individual soldier level, the
local weather data will be employed in soldier-support weather
effects TDAs, such as the environmental medicine TDAs which provide
information on cold and heat strain. Capabilities will include
user-tailored weather support TDAs, critical-value databases
containing weather sensitivities of friendly and threat systems,
and automated comparison and assessment of weather effects on both
friendly and threat capabilities.
Commanders and their planners must consider weather effects in all
phases of operations, so that the best course of action (COA) can
be chosen for each mission. Weather support TDAs allow commanders
to manipulate and present real-time and predicted weather
information, showing its effects on terrain and combat systems.
They also allow planners to wargame COAs in anticipation of changes
in the weather. The Integrated Weather Effects Decision Aid (IWEDA)
is a sophisticated expert system that provides these capabilities.
It automatically identifies unfavorable, marginal, and favorable
weather-effects information based on operating limitations of
friendly and threat weapon systems. IWEDA is tailorable to specific
tactical operations and missions, providing color-coded
time-dependent assessments of weather effects on missions and
The commander and planners require weather information before
deployment, enroute, and in the area of operations to support force
projection operations. A small, lightweight, first-in weather
operations system, along with split-based capabilities, will
provide the ability to move quickly with the early-entry forces.
(See the sidebar.) Commanders and their staffs will be able to
"pull" in weather intelligence tactically tailored in the required
format when needed (including while on the move). The Air Force
Global Weather Central, through the Tactical Forecast System and in
conjunction with the Deployable Intelligence Support Element
(DISE), will provide support to split-based operations. With the
IMETS, the first-in weather capability will provide units a
Manportable Weather Support System (MWSS) capability, able to truly
support the level and urgency of any contingency.
- Satellite, tactical radio and Mobile Subscriber Equipment
- A battlescale forecast model for our high-resolution
weather prediction (local).
- Automated decision aids for weather effects.
- Weather-forecasting decision aids.
Military Intelligence Applications
Weather is one of the essential elements of combat intelligence.
The interaction of weather, terrain, and the enemy forms the basis
for the IPB process. The commander's primary tool for presenting
and analyzing the effects of weather and terrain is IPB. In the
context of IPB, weather intelligence is the process of converting
weather observations and forecasts into weather-effects information
portraying the impacts of weather on both our operations, troops,
and equipment and that of the enemy. In the IPB process, weather
OTW automated IPB weather analysis products will provide the
commander and his staff with the capacity to immediately assess how
current and future weather conditions affect enemy activities and
events, and both the friendly and threat force's ability to fight.
This automated capability will enable the revision of IPB products
such as the situation template in near real-time using the most
current information available. All of this will enhance our ability
to see the battlefield in four-dimensional time and space, and will
enhance the commander's skill in determining the enemy's expected
COA as well as his own.
Some critical capabilities for Intelligence XXI that OTW will
- Comparing observed and forecast conditions against
critical weather-effects threshold values and identifying
limitations on operations.
- Evaluating the effects of precipitation on mobility and
countermobility, on trafficability, and on deep-attack weapons and
- Comparing friendly and threat capabilities in varied
adverse weather conditions.
- Reliable target-area weather data for precision-strike
targeting accuracy and battle damage assessment.
- All-source fusion of environmental information for
modeling current and future weather effects on terrain and combat
- Reliable communications for weather-intelligence
- A scalable, dynamic view of battlespace weather
simulation and visualization of battlefield weather effects for
real-time and predicted shared situational awareness.
- Mobility comparable that of the supported force and an
ability to maintain the operational tempo through enhanced
knowledge and understanding of weather effects.
OTW is a vision for Force XXI battlefield weather operations. It
leverages the power of weather information and technology to
enhance deployment and sustainment, and to increase lethality,
survivability, and the tempo of operations in war and other
military operations. OTW is critical to seeing and out-thinking the
enemy, gaining information dominance and winning the information
war, and to controlling the environment (to permit continuous
around-the-clock operations). It is essential for dominating
maneuver forces and knowing target-area meteorological conditions
needed to execute precision strikes. Force XXI commanders must have
the ability to see the depth of a dirty battlefield, cutting
through both bad weather and the fog of war with unprecedented
detail, certainty, and in near-real time.
Mr. Szymber is a meteorologist with the
Battlefield Environment Directorate of ARL. He serves as ARL's OTW
liaison to the Intelligence Center. Readers can contact him at
(520) 538-0723/6493, DSN 879-0723/6493, and via E-mail at rszym