1Air Force Weather (AFW)


001. Air Weather Service (AWS) Field Operating Agency (FOA) mission and services

002. Planning and managing a quality assurance (QA) program

003. Mission and services provided by other military services and weather agencies

004. AFW concepts

WHEN you arrived at your first duty assignment, your in-processing included attending a series of briefings. These briefings contained important orientation information regarding your new assignment. This first unit has information which orients you to your new career as a weather apprentice/analyst.

To better understand your role in the weather career field, this unit contains information about the mission and services of the Air Weather Service (AWS), and other military services and weather agencies. You will also cover the quality assurance program and study how weather impacts military operations, the doctrine of meteorological and oceanographic (METOC) operations and aerospace weather operations.

As a graduate of the Weather Initial Skills Course, you are now a member of the 1W0X1 career field; the most unique career field in the USAF. The varied and specialized support the weather career field provides to different types of organizations worldwide is what makes it unique. In order for you to better understand this career field, our first look is at the AWS Field Operating Agency (FOA).

001. Air Weather Service (AWS) Field Operating Agency (FOA) mission and services

Today’s AWS is vastly different from what it was before April 1, 1991. On that date, AWS became an FOA reporting directly to Headquarters, United States Air Force, Director of Weather (HQ USAF/XOW).

AWS. AWS plans for and furnishes centralized weather services to the Air Force, Army, Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), designated unified commands, and other agencies as directed by the Chief of Staff, HQ USAF (CSAF). It supplies technical advice and help to all agencies supported by AFW and ensures standardization of procedures and interoperability with AFW. AWS also evaluates the technical performance and effectiveness of weather services provided by AFW and fields and sustains standard weather systems for the Air Force and Army.

Major commands (MAJCOMs) also provide support services to AWS organizations as documented in appropriate agreements. HQ AWS personnel may communicate directly with appropriate HQ USAF offices; MAJCOM headquarters and FOAs; US Army major commands (MACOMs); US Navy, civil, and federal weather service agencies; and other agencies on technical, operational, and planning matters for which AWS is responsible.

The AWS FOA consists primarily of HQ AWS (Scott AFB IL) and two direct reporting centers; Air Force Global Weather Central (AFGWC, Offutt AFB NE) and Air Force Combat Climatology Center (AFCCC, Scott AFB IL). What was the Air Force Space Forecast Center (AFSFC, Falcon AFS CO) was a direct reporting center of AWS until it was transferred.

Air Force Global Weather Central (AFGWC). AFGWC produces centralized weather products for US combat forces, the unified and specified commands, all Air Force MAJCOMs, all Army MACOMs, and other agencies as directed by the CSAF. AFGWC collects, quality controls, and processes worldwide meteorological data to provide a wide range of tailored military products describing the present and future states of the aerospace environment. AFGWC collaborates with other military and civil weather centers and agencies concerning mutual support. AFGWC manages data exchange and mutual backup arrangements with the National Weather Service (NWS) and the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (NMOC).

Air Force Combat Climatology Center (AFCCC). The AFCCC collects, saves, and applies worldwide weather data to generate environmental products in support of worldwide operations of the Air Force, Army, and other DoD and US government agencies. The AFCCC builds and applies historical weather databases to provide post analysis, climatological studies, and other technical products to aid in weather forecasting, weapons system design, operational planning, and resource management.

Operating location (OL) A, AFCCC, Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Detachment, Asheville, and the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) maintain facilities and reciprocal agreements to achieve common mission objectives. AFCCC uses NCDC databases, products, and library to service DoD agencies’ climatology requirements. NCDC uses AFCCC databases and products to service non-DoD and Navy agencies’ requirements. AFCCC is authorized direct communication with HQ AWS, AFGWC, data-gathering units, and other agencies on technical, operational, and planning matters for which AFCCC is responsible. OL-A is authorized direct communication with AFCCC offices, data-gathering units, NCDC and collocated agencies, and other agencies authorized by AFCCC.

50th Weather Squadron. The Air Force Space Forecast Center was officially transferred from HQ AWS to the Air Force Space Command’s (AFSPC) 50th Space Wing and redesignated the 50th Weather Squadron (WS) in a ceremony September 30, 1994.

The 50th WS provides centralized space environmental analysis and forecast products to AFW and manages the Solar Electro-Optical Network (SEON) and space environmental sensors’ operations. 50th WS analyzes and forecasts solar and space environmental phenomena and provides alerts, warnings, and assessments of operational impacts to AF and other DoD agencies. The 50th WS also directs field operations of the Space Environmental Support System (SESS) which includes managing the Air Force’s solar observing sites and space environmental ionospheric, magnetospheric, and satellite sensors.

002. Planning and managing a quality assurance (QA) program

QA is a management system which maintains product excellence in the day-to-day operation of production units. QA is a means to detect and correct deficiencies through the application of unit-developed procedures to monitor such products as weather forecasts, observations, and warnings from their initial production through customer delivery. Management uses QA to validate production trends, identify additional training requirements, and improve on production processes.

How do we know when the weather station is doing good? There has always been a rather large debate on this issue and the answer depends on the philosophy and experiences of the weather person asked. There are many opinions on what information is needed to provide an accurate assessment of your unit’s technical health. But, everyone agrees that the major aspect should be based on an objective method of assessing performance (metrics in QAF jargon). The technical leaders of your weather station should have statistics from their QA program. The information should give you a feeling for the technical strengths and weaknesses of your base weather station (BWS). It should pinpoint areas where the unit is doing very well or areas where technical improvement is needed. Trends are important; is performance increasing or decreasing? The information provided should give you a feel for the quality of weather support and the contribution it is making to the base’s mission.

In years past, weather stations were required by regulation to produce monthly QA summaries. Your weather station should still be producing them since they are a valuable management tool. The information reported in the monthly QA summary contains some very worthwhile metrics. Be patient, since it may take you several months to become familiar with the data.

There are different types of information which need to be included in any QA program.

General information. Some of the general information indicating technical health are:

Specific information. Specific information which should be covered in any QA program are Terminal Aerodrome Forecasts (TAFs) and TAF amendments, weather warnings, weather advisories, observations, and on-the-spot QA.

TAFs and TAF amendments. When viewing TAFs look at the following: the percentage of TAFs which needed amending, amendments before-the-fact, and the success in forecasting TAF elements meaningful to the mission.

Percentage of TAFs which needed to be amended. This statistic shows how well weather conditions are being handled. If, for example, a high percentage of the TAFs had to be amended, the personnel were probably not handling systems as well as they should have. If the percentage is low either there was very little weather, or the people did a great job!

Number of TAF amendments issued before-the-fact. How well were the conditions being monitored? If the conditions were monitored closely, most all amendments are issued before the unforecast weather occurs.

Success in forecasting TAF elements important to mission. If a ceiling condition of 700 feet is important to the mission, performance forecasting this criterion should be monitored. This kind of information shows performance data for important customer thresholds.

Weather warnings and weather advisories. To check the technical health of weather warnings and advisories check the percentage of warnings and advisories which met the desired lead-time, the false alarm percentage and the number required but not issued.

Percentage of warnings that met desired lead-time. How well did the station perform in forecasting elements which pose a threat to life or property? The AF standards or an historical average should be used to measure weather warning and advisory performance.

False alarm percentage. How good is the unit at defining when forecast elements will really happen? Do they overforecast or underforecast?

Number required but not issued. This shows the number of times damaging conditions occurred when they weren’t expected to occur.

Observations. What information helps you to assess your observations? QA the record-special rate, the error-free rate and use a special scatter diagram.

Record-special rate. The record-special rate indicates how well weather conditions are being monitored. A low record-special rate tends to indicate weather conditions are being closely monitored.

Special scatter diagram. A scatter diagram shows when the observations are being taken. If the diagram shows a large number of specials are being taken right before the scheduled hourly observation, then weather conditions are not being watched as closely as they should be. This can also reveal the amount of communication which exists between the weather station and the air traffic controllers (Cooperative Weather Watch).

Observation error-free rate. How many observations are transmitted error-free?

On-the-spot QA. When checking the technical health, on-the-spot QA should not be ignored. What should be looked at are the number of errors caught before transmission and the number of briefings.

Number of errors caught before transmission. High numbers in this area spotlight the emphasis station personnel place on detecting errors before products are provided to the customers. This can pinpoint where some production processes need attention.

Number of briefings. Workload is something you should be aware of. You’ll probably see an inverse relationship between workload and products. As the workload increases, error-free performance will probably diminish.

All of these statistics should be provided in a graph format which shows historical data and includes a standard to judge performance. However, use caution. Although an objective method is essential to assessing the performance of a unit, numbers don’t always tell the whole story. For example, a line of severe thunderstorms is headed toward your base, so a weather warning is issued to alert the base. However, the cells in the line of thunderstorms miss your base by two miles and the warning does not verify (warning criteria elements were not observed). Was the warning justified? Yes, but the numbers show a false alarm. So, some subjective information should be included in the objective evaluation.

003. Mission and services provided by other military services and weather agencies

What’s the weather going to be tomorrow? A seemingly innocuous question, except when asked by a military warfighter. On the field of battle, the environment can be a formidable adversary or a welcome ally—The defeat of the Spanish Armada, Waterloo, D-Day, and Desert Storm.

Today’s world order ushers forth a new era in warfare–that of joint operations and a host of new technologies. Yet even in the computer age, weapons and systems remain vulnerable to the air/ocean environment.

In this lesson we cover the various weather missions and weather services of the US Navy (USN), the US Marine Corps (USMC), and the NWS.

USN mission and services. Although modern ships no longer rely on the winds to move them through the water, knowledge of weather is still vital to the successful prosecution of naval warfare. Weather is seldom neutral, it favors those who know it and use it to advantage

The Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command’s (NMOC) mission is to collect, interpret and apply global data and information for safety at sea, strategic and tactical warfare, and weapons system design, development and deployment. The command provides meteorological, oceanographic, and mapping, charting and geodetic services to increase the effectiveness of the Navy in peacetime and in war.

This worldwide organization comprises some three thousand officer, enlisted and civilian personnel at two master computer centers, as well as a number of theater centers, facilities, detachments, and aboard the ships and aircraft used in conducting oceanographic surveys. The Naval Oceanographic Office (NOO) is the largest single element of the command and one of the two master computer centers. Its primary mission is to conduct oceanographic multidisciplinary surveys in the world’s oceans. The office collects hydrographic, magnetic, geodetic, chemical, navigation and acoustic data using ships, aircraft, spacecraft and other platforms.

The Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center (FNMOC) is the other master computer center. It produces global and regional scale meteorological and oceanographic prediction products, including analyses, forecasts and tactical decision aids, for direct operational use by Navy ships and aircraft.

Theater centers provide services to naval and other Department of Defense (DoD) forces operating in their respective theaters. These centers are generally located with, or in proximity to, major fleet or joint force commanders. The facilities manage detachments, provide local support and some provide specialized functional tasks. The detachments throughout the world provide local meteorological oceanographic services.

Along with the support products by the various centers, the NMOC provides on-scene services. Teams of skilled personnel from the centers and facilities embark on board combatants for specific operations, exercises or deployments. They assist in the interpretation of products received from the centers ashore and generate tactical support products using on-scene observations of air and ocean conditions.

Oceanography. Oceanography is the investigation of the nature and behavior of the oceans—the Navy’s operating environment. Temperature, salinity and pressure influence the path sound takes as it moves through the water. This information is used to locate and track submarines of potential adversaries, as well as to conceal our own.

Sea ice influences ocean acoustics and presents a hazard to navigation. Personnel at the Naval Ice Center observe and record sea ice ridges, water openings and thickness.

Satellite imagery is used to determine sea height, sea-surface temperature, ocean current, upwelling, water masses in the sea and frontal boundaries which separate them, and the swirling eddies that spiral off from them.

Mapping, charting and geodesy. NMOC surveys measure water depths, variations in the earth’s magnetic field, determine gravity anomalies and define the shape and texture of the ocean floor.

Hydrographic surveys are conducted to measure and describe the physical natures of the ocean. The information is required to insure the safe navigation of all United States’ ships outside our national territorial waters. The data is provided to the Defense Mapping Agency (DMA) for processing and printing of nautical charts. The result of these efforts promotes efficiency and safety for all who use the world’s ocean highways.

US Marine Corps mission and services. The Marine Corps is responsible for meteorological support to the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF). MAGTF support varies between the operational and tactical level and between the combat element, the ground combat element (GCE), the aviation combat element (ACE), and the combat service support element (CSSE). At the operational level, the requirement exists for forecasts of critical weather and oceanographic elements (such as flying conditions, surf, current, and tide conditions, as well as weather warnings) at least 72–96 hours in advance of an operation. Because the Marine Corps warfighting doctrine stresses expeditionary operations and is heavily maneuver warfare oriented, the GCE requires weather and oceanographic support that can be used for briefings and decision aids. The ACE units require typical aviation weather support (such as takeoff weather, destination weather, etc.). The CSSE support, although not as weather sensitive, as ground and air operations, can be heavily influenced by extreme weather conditions such as extreme heat and cold. Currently the NMOC provides comprehensive meteorological and oceanographic support to the Marine Corps weather units.

National Weather Service (NWS). NWS headquarters is located in Silver Spring, Maryland (just outside Washington, DC). The mission of NWS is to provide weather and flood warnings, public forecasts and advisories for all the US, its territories, adjacent waters and ocean areas, primarily for the protection of life and property. NWS data and products are provided to private meteorologists for the provision of all specialized services.

The public forecast and warning service of the NWS includes:

Severe weather and flood warnings are issued as far in advance as the present state of the science permits and are given immediate and widespread dissemination by all possible means.

The basic forecast system of the NWS is composed of five elements: National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), Weather Service Forecast Offices (WSFOs), River Forecast Centers (RFCs), Weather Service Offices (WSOs) and Weather Service Meteorological Observatories (WSMOs).

Weather warnings and forecasts to the general public and other users are the heart of NWS’ operations. The offices most involved in the production of forecasts are WSFOs and RFCs, while warnings and local forecasts are prepared by both WSFOs and most WSOs.

National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). NCEP is located in Camp Springs, MD, and provides support to the entire organization. NCEP prepares most of the synoptic-scale guidance in the short (up to 72 hours) and medium (up to 10 days) ranges used in preparing weather forecasts. Most of this guidance is in the form of regional, hemispheric, and global numerical analyses and prognoses. NCEP also prepares monthly and seasonal outlooks.

As components of NCEP, the National Severe Storms Forecast Center (NSSFC) and the National Hurricane Center (NHC) are specialized national centers. NSSFC, located in Kansas City, Missouri, prepares watches for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. NHC, in Coral Gables, Florida, prepares watches and warnings for hurricanes.

Weather Service Forecast Offices (WSFOs). WSFOs are the backbone of the field forecasting operation. WSFOs are responsible for warnings and forecasts for areas generally the size of state boundaries with a few exceptions. Larger and more populous states have more than one WSFO while some smaller states are within the area of responsibility of WSFOs in neighboring states.

WSFOs provide the main field support for the marine and aviation programs, and many provide guidance for the agricultural and fire weather programs.

Forecasts issued by the WSFOs include:

  1. State (or part of larger state).
  2. Zone (area up to the size of several counties).
  3. Local (urban area and its vicinity).
  4. Agricultural (tailored to agri-business needs).
  5. Fire weather (tailored to land management needs).
  6. Marine (coastal and Great Lakes).
  7. Aviation (terminal, route, and local vicinity).
  8. Hydrology (flood warnings, flood statements, river statements).

Zone forecasts are issued four times daily for a period out to as long as 48 hours; a generalized statewide forecast is issued twice a day; and a more general extended forecast (3 to 5 days) is issued twice daily. Area or statewide warnings or watches are issued to advise the public during critical weather situations, as are the various special advisories.

River Forecast Offices (RFCs). RFCs prepare river stage forecasts for use by the public, as well as special flow forecasts for use by irrigation, navigation, recreation, and reservoir interests. Most RFCs disseminate their products to the general public through WSFOs with Hydrologic Service Areas (HSA) responsibility. Also, the RFCs maintain close operational cooperation with other federal water resource agencies, particularly the Corps of Engineers, Geological Survey, Bureau of Reclamation, and Soil Conservation Service.

Weather Service Offices (WSO). WSOs serve under the WSFO and issue local forecasts which are adapted from zone forecasts. Usually, several WSOs are located within the area of responsibility of a WSFO. These forecasts meet local requirements but do not extend beyond the period covered by the zone guidance.

Direct public service is one of the primary functions at nearly all WSOs. Other basic functions can include data acquisition (hydrological/meteorological), weather radar surveillance/observing-interpretation, and information dissemination using NOAA Weather Radio (NWR). A significant number of WSOs provide specialized services for fire weather and/or agriculture. The exact duties depend on the mission assigned by the Regional Director.

Nearly all WSOs have responsibility for preparing, issuing, and disseminating severe weather and flash flood warnings and statements for tornadoes, hurricane, marine environment, thunderstorms, etc.

Weather Service Meteorological Observatories (WSMOs). WSMOs also serve under the WSFOs and make up the fifth element of the forecast structure of NWS. WSMOs are primarily data acquisition offices for observations which include surface, upper-air, and radar. They alert and inform other NWS offices of imminent severe storms and potentially severe weather as observed by radar. WSMOs mainly serve the needs of other NWS offices and provide little or no public services.

004. AFW concepts

Air Force Weather is a force multiplier consisting of active and reserve Air Force personnel who are organized, equipped and trained to enhance combat operations. AFW personnel provide tailored weather decision aids which play a crucial role in all military activities. Accurate weather predictions enable the commander to direct combat forces at the right time, with the appropriate effort, in support of tactical, operational, and strategic operations.

Weather sensitivities and impacts on military operations. America’s national security environment and its corresponding Defense Planning Guidance (DPG) often change. As an example, the military recently made a significant change from a global, cold war strategy to a regional strategy that relies on a smaller US— based contingency force. Technology, at the same time, provides constant change to military capabilities supporting the DPG.

What does not change is that virtually all forces which comprise our military capability are influenced by the weather–warfighting more often adapts to the weather rather than it surmounts it, just as it adapts to terrain and sea conditions. Weather asserts constant influence on the readiness, morale, and effectiveness of military forces, the choice of military strategy and tactics, and the performance and useful life of military weapons systems. Even the most advanced, high-cost weapon systems are affected by the aerospace environment. Weather must therefore be considered in every facet of military force planning, deployment, and employment, and system design and evaluation.

Part of the AFW concept includes specifying and forecasting the condition of the near-earth space environment. This environment may have an impact on DoD systems, including communication (both ground-based and satellite), radar, and surveillance systems. AFW provides broad and mission-tailored support in such areas as: solar flare activity, ionospheric variability, energetic particle events, and geomagnetic and solar indices required to determine atmospheric density variations. Customer support includes real-time notification of solar and geophysical events, forecasts with lead times ranging from hours to months, products tailored to specific user requirements, and detailed post-analysis studies.

Aerospace weather operations doctrine. Air Force weather personnel provide information on the past, present, and future states of the air and space environments within which weapon systems and their supporting infrastructure operate. They function as an integral part of combat operations. Their most important role is to provide the warfighter tailored weather information which enhances combat effectiveness. Together with the warfighter, they perform this role by understanding the effects of weather; seeing the opportunities they offer; and anticipating when they will come into play. Successfully accomplishing this role allows the commander to set the terms for battle to maximize his performance while taking advantage of limitations on enemy forces. Additionally, AF weather personnel provide information critical to peacetime operations, personnel safety and resource protection, and provide a vital link in the development of new equipment, weapons systems, combat tactics, and effectiveness analysis.

Weather principles. The following principles are the cornerstone of AFW in all military operations. By applying these principles, AFW is better prepared to enhance and sustain military operations.

Accuracy of data/information. Commanders depend on accurate weather information to plan and direct their operations. Inaccurate information can cost lives, undermine the successful execution of an operation/mission, waste resources, and impair readiness. This is true anytime–whether at peace or at war. The complexity of the mission and amount of detail required, the capability to collect data, model and forecast the weather, the perishable nature of weather data, and human error all affect accuracy. Therefore, weather information will never be totally accurate. These factors must be explained to decision makers so they may weigh them in making decisions.

Timeliness of data/information. AFW is effective when a commander receives accurate weather information in time to consider its impact on the decision to be made. Weather information which could influence an operation or program is worthless whenever the commander receives it after an opportunity has passed, an irreversible decision has been made, or an operation is complete. Communication links are vital to support and sustain the timely dissemination of weather information and are key to the overall capability of AFW.

Relevance to the operational user. AFW provides the user an understanding of the weather situation through information that is directly relevant and applicable to the responsibilities of each echelon of the supported command. It impacts the echelon’s current, planned, and alternative courses of action. Weather personnel tailor the information for specific applications so the user can quickly identify and apply relevant information without additional analysis or manipulation. Attaining this

principle requires AFW personnel understand operational user needs and implies a user’s responsibility to communicate specific requirements for content, form, medium, presentation, timeliness, and frequency of delivery.

Unity of effort. Weather information that influences a commander’s decision usually cannot be derived from data obtained from a single source. Instead, weather data from many sources must be assembled into a database which contains a complete and interrelated summary of weather over an extended region and time encompassing the area of interest to the commander. Within a theater of war, or for a particular joint operations area, a unity of effort ensures the weather database is as complete and accurate as possible. To accomplish this task, weather organizations at all levels requires clearly defined functions that eliminate duplication, maximize sharing of information, and are mutually supportive of the overall weather concept. The responsibilities of each AFW organization must be clear, explicit, and understood by all.

Readiness. It is essential that weather forces, databases, products, and equipment be responsive to the requirements of commanders, and their forces. Weather resources oriented to areas where there is a high probability of military operations must be maintained in a degree of readiness that ensures immediate employment capability.

Measure of effectiveness. The overall effectiveness of AFW is based on the successful and effective accomplishment of specific military operations. Each weather organization directs its actions towards this goal. This requires weather organizations at all levels to be fully integrated into all operations. Such interaction leads to mutual understanding and trust between the weather sources and other warfighting forces.

Weather functions. The primary weather functions required to enhance military operations are collection, analysis, forecasting, tailored application, dissemination, evaluation, and integration. These functions need to be performed in full recognition of the fundamental weather principles outlined earlier.

Collection. AFW depends on the collection of high quality weather data. As an example, observations from land and ship, upper-air sounding devices, meteorological satellites, weather radars, lighting detection systems, atmospheric profilers, solar telescopes, ionospheric sensors, buoys, and aircraft set the foundation for AFW to enhance operational missions. These are the essential components of regional and worldwide databases from which weather services and products are derived. Because of the rapidly changing nature of the aerospace environment, these observations are extremely perishable and are continuously updated and available to military operations.

Analysis. After collection of available data, AFW develops a coherent picture of the current state of the aerospace environment—a critical function which better enables accurate forecasts of future states of the aerospace environment.

Forecasting. Through the evaluation and interpretation of collected and analyzed weather data, specific forecast products are developed to enhance military operations and to satisfy user requirements. Forecast products can be developed for the near or far term and on a scale ranging from global in size to pinpoint locations in the battlespace. For example, generalized, long-range planning forecasts are required from several days to several weeks before an operation. Specific mission planning and execution forecasts are needed at the start and during execution of a mission.

Tailored application. A key function in the overall ability of AFW to enhance theater military operations is the tailored application of forecast products and information to assist the decision-making process of commanders. By applying weather information to operating limitations of weapon systems and associated tactics, techniques, and procedures, commanders can identify favorable, marginal, and unfavorable weather-effects information.

Dissemination. Weather information is of no operational use unless it reaches the user in time to be of operational or planning value. Therefore, AFW functions need to process and disseminate weather information to users by the fastest means available. Weather personnel and the users of weather information determine what information merits distribution, to whom, when, and the format and media required. They must have a common understanding of the impact of timeliness on operations. Mutual efforts by weather personnel to promote their capabilities and by users to state their requirements must be accomplished. This ensures the user receives the information needed for the task at hand rather than be inundated with unneeded products or not receive a key product.

Evaluation. AFW evaluations by operational users and weather personnel ensures the effectiveness of the weather information. Evaluations based on established standards identify shortfalls in the value of various types of products, the responsiveness of the weather products to the user, and techniques used to provide them. Implementing timely corrective actions enhances the overall effectiveness of AFW.

Integration. AFW extends beyond the functions identified above. It is essential that weather personnel actively participate in staff actions involving planning for, or assessing the effectiveness of an operation or weapon system. Integration of weather information as decision aids into the planning process allows commanders to make informed decisions about the design and operation of a plan. For example, early integration of information from weather studies developed from climatological databases can aid the long-range planning of military operations, or the research, design and development of equipment and weapon systems. Integration of weather information during the process of assessing the effectiveness of weapons with electro-optical sensors can help warfighters obtain maximum combat benefit from precision guided munitions. Weather information integrated with other sources of information affect the enemy’s probable course of action due to the enemy’s ability or inability to perform in given weather conditions.

Figure 1–1 illustrates a highly simplified model of AFW by which raw data is converted into information and made available to the user. The individual functions are part of a process that is logical, para-sequential, and repetitive.

Figure 1–1. Air Force weather system.

Weather infrastructure. Structures, procedures and capabilities are established and maintained to support the weather principles and accomplish the weather functions. The overall AFW organization for military operations is based on wartime effectiveness as well as peacetime efficiency. AFW needs to be integrated in the full range of operations that may be directed by the National Command Authorities.

Organization. AFW functions are conducted at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels to enhance wartime operations of combat forces, operations short of war, and peacetime operational requirements and training.

Tactical level. At the tactical level, weather units collect and disseminate weather information, generate analysis and forecast products, and use centrally prepared products normally produced by strategic level organizations to provide tailored information to enhance the execution of specific operational missions.

Operational level. At the operational level, weather units build and maintain regional weather databases and provide tailored area and target information to command and control activities and tactical level weather forces operating in a specific geographic area of responsibility. To do this, these units rely on weather data from tactical level units and products from centralized sites at the strategic level. These units may function as joint weather units in the theater in which they are located.

Strategic level. At the strategic level, centralized weather organizations use resources to build and maintain a variety of worldwide meteorological and space environmental databases. Then they generate products not produced at the tactical and operational level weather units. Centralized products provide data and guidance from which mission-tailored products are derived. Centralized weather organizations may function as joint or theater weather units when required for joint operations.

Continuous operations. Air Force weather forces and organizations need the flexibility and mobility required to ensure uninterrupted information to military forces regardless of the operating conditions or location. To ensure this continuity at all echelons, weather organizations, and their supporting communication architectures, must be enacted as soon as possible after employment to allow for data collection and analysis, operational product preparation, and dissemination. If the constitution of this infrastructure is delayed, weather information for operational and tactical planning, and the conduct of operations may not be adequate.

Preparation and training. Weather personnel are professionals who are able to provide quality tailored, battlespace weather information to the warfighters. They must, therefore, possess both technical proficiency and military skills. This requires aggressive and realistic training that fully exercises tactical equipment capabilities and procedures. Training includes and simulates many of the uncertainties expected during contingencies of war; for example, communication outages, lack of data, etc. Training must be evaluated to determine its value and to assess current capabilities. As the military develops and integrates sophisticated new technologies, continued technical education and realistic training are even more essential to the professional growth and overall capability of weather personnel.

Relationship with joint and combined operations. In a contingency or war, military weather systems will most likely be the only assured source of weather information. In a crisis environment, reliance on other sources of weather information may result in a degraded quality of weather information. Air Force weather personnel must think and train from a joint perspective as detailed in joint doctrine and joint tactics, techniques, and procedures for METOC operations. This maximizes the effectiveness of available resources during theater operations and ensures maximum interoperability and unity of effort of component forces. Additionally, Air Force weather personnel need to consider and exploit capabilities of allied weather forces during combined operations.

Meteorological and oceanographic (METOC) operations doctrine. The Joint Chiefs of Staff publication JCP 3–59, Joint Doctrine for Meteorological and Oceanographic Support, governs the joint activities and performance of the Armed Forces of the United States in joint operations as well as the doctrinal basis for US military involvement in multinational and interagency operations. It provides military guidance for the exercise of authority by combatant commanders and other joint force commanders (JFC) and prescribes doctrine for joint operations and training. JCP 3–59 provides military guidance for use by the Armed Forces in preparing their appropriate plans. It is not intended to restrict the authority of the JFC from organizing the force and executing the mission in a manner the JFC deems most appropriate to ensure unity of effort in the accomplishment of the overall mission.

Doctrine and guidance apply to the commanders of combatant commands, subunified commands, joint task forces, and subordinate components of these commands. The principles and guidance also apply when significant forces of one service are attached to forces of another service or when significant forces of one service support forces of another service.

JCP 3–59 is authoritative but not directive. However, if conflicts arise between the contents of JCP 3–59 and the contents of service publications, JCP 3–59 takes precedence for the activities of joint forces unless the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), in coordination with the other members of the JCS, provides more current and specific guidance. Commanders of forces operating as part of a multinational (alliance or coalition) military command should follow multinational doctrine and guidance ratified by the United States. For doctrine and procedures not ratified by the United States, commanders evaluate and follow the multinational command’s doctrine and procedures, where applicable.

JCP 3–59 establishes doctrine governing METOC support for joint operations of the Armed Forces of the United States, including the US Coast Guard while operating under the Department of Defense (DoD) in time of war. The term METOC incorporates all facets of services’ meteorological, oceanographic, and space environmental programs to include the whole range of atmospheric, oceanographic, and space environment phenomena from the bottom of the earth’s oceans into the space environment (space weather).

The space, air, and ocean environments affect military operations. Climatology, real-time data, and accurate forecasts of specific METOC parameters and the output of tactical decision aids are factors that provide a commander with the best environmental windows of opportunity to execute, support, and sustain specific missions.

METOC support requirements. The JFC, through the joint force METOC officer (JMO), is responsible for ensuring that appropriate METOC support is provided to all subordinate joint forces and components for the entire range of military operations. They also should provide overall direction and guidance to unify METOC support efforts. This support includes the provision for information concerning the past, present, and future states of the space, air, and ocean environments. This allows commanders to determine the impact of these environments on personnel, weapons, sensors, and system performance. Component-specific METOC support is generally provided by assigned or attached component METOC assets using guidance provided by the JMO. Because of the highly perishable nature of METOC data, support effectiveness depends greatly on timely, reliable, and interoperable communications among METOC service components at all levels.

Climatology. During the planning phase of any operation, knowledge of the historical regional METOC conditions provides invaluable insight into the possible impacts on operations.

Observations. Support to current operations depends on comprehensive METOC observations derived from land and ship reports, upper-air soundings, satellite sensors, weather radars, lightning detection systems, profilers, solar telescopes, ionospheric sensors, buoys, and aircraft. These observations support local missions and are part of a worldwide data base from which products are derived to support operational commanders at all levels. A theater or area of responsibility sensing strategy should be developed that fully integrates the individual components’ METOC observation networks and exploits all the reliable sources of foreign data. This ensures a unity of effort while optimizing data collection, dissemination, and integration into support forecast products.

Forecasts. To support all the operational activities effectively, forecast products need to cover global, regional, and tactical scales. These forecasts vary from generalized planning forecasts issued several days before an operation, to forecasts issued to support the execution of a specific mission or operation. Specific joint force METOC forecast unit (JMFU) forecasts should be considered official forecasts and are to be used by all agencies in the joint force area of operations. Significant deviations from official forecasts by subordinate activities should be coordinated with the JMFU.

Support force structure/characteristics. METOC forces need flexibility and mobility to ensure uninterrupted support to achieve unity of effort. The JFC, through the JMO, designates the location and composition of the JMFU and its staff. This unit should be responsible for official joint force forecasts that can be tailored for use at all levels. The JMFU staff should be composed of forces drawn from all the services participating in the operation to ensure that quality service-unique METOC support is provided. The composition of the JMFU staff should be tailored to support the concept of operations of the joint mission and composition of assigned forces (that is, maritime, amphibious, special operations, ground, air, space, etc.).

The JMFU should be a joint task force (JTF) command-level function and, therefore, under the operational control of the JFC when the JMFU is deployed in theater. The JMFU may be fixed or mobile and may change as operational conditions dictate. It should receive support and data from other organizations as required. Early identification and sourcing of the JFC JMO, JMFU, and staff assists the services in programming sufficient personnel and equipment to meet JFC requirements. This support structure typically consists of three tiers: the METOC forecast center, the component level, and tactical operations.

METOC forecast centers (MFC). Centralized sites are staffed and operated by one of the services (usually the Navy or Air Force), and make products beyond the capabilities of component level or on-scene tactical units supporting local operations. Examples of centralized products include:

Component level (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Special Operations Forces (SOF)). Component organizations receive products from centralized sites, as well as data from subordinate units. They provide tailored METOC support to component command and control activities and to subordinate units. Component command support activities also provide tailored support to the JFC as required. During a crisis and/or when a JTF is established, component command activities may be designated as the JMFU. Although they may require personnel and/or equipment augmentation, they still function in support of the JTF. SOF METOC support requirements must be established and satisfied separately. SOF METOC support forces normally include representation from all services to ensure quality service-unique support is provided.

Tactical operations (Wing, Squadron, Corps, Division, Carrier Battle Group, Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF), Surface Action Group, etc.). These organizations take local observations, generate analyses and forecast products, and use centrally prepared products to provide support specifically tailored to operational mission requirements in the tactical area of operations. Tactical-level support activities may also provide tailored support to the JFC as required. During a crisis and/or when a JTF is established, tactical-level activities may be designated as the JMFU and, although they may require personnel and/or equipment augmentation, should function in support of the JTF.

Data and communications requirements. Communications are an essential element for METOC support. Because METOC data are extremely perishable, effective METOC services depend on timely, reliable communications support. The joint communications architecture should support the collection or interception, storage and retrieval, dissemination, quality control, and processing of large amounts of data. High-speed communications are required to rapidly transmit and receive real-time global scale METOC information between the METOC forecasting centers, JMFU, component, and field units. Planning should include timely movement and establishment of necessary equipment to support METOC communications.

Planning responsibilities. Early identification of specific support, including transportation and logistic sustainment, requirements for all levels is required to ensure the availability of necessary information and resources. Early identification of JMFU sourcing also assists the services in programming sufficient personnel and equipment to meet JFC requirements. The size structure, and content of support depends on the JFC’s operational needs. METOC support is provided by integrating a mix of global, regional, and locally produced METOC products as well as data and products received from reliable foreign sources. METOC services support long-range planning, mission planning, and operational execution.

Training. METOC concepts developed to support joint operations should be exercised and evaluated in realistic training scenarios to ensure they are feasible and can support the overall mission at all levels. Conduct of joint exercises trains assigned forces, enhances interoperability, and confirms the feasibility of communications and operational plans. Service components should state their training requirements for inclusion in Commander-in-Chief of Unified Command (CINC)-sponsored and CJCS-sponsored exercises through the CINC’s senior METOC officer (SMO). Joint training requirements are developed from the CINC’s joint mission essential task list (JMETL).

Self-Test Questions

After you complete these questions, you may check your answers at the end of the unit.

001. Air Weather Service (AWS) Field Operating Agency (FOA) mission and services

1. Match the AWS FOA and direct reporting units in column B with the mission and services provided in column A. Column B items may be used more than once.

Column A

____(1). Collects, saves, and applies worldwide weather data in support of worldwide operations.

____(2). Sustains standard weather systems for the Air Force and Army.

____(3). Manages the Air Force’s solar observing sites.

____(4). Produces centralized weather products for all Army MACOMs as directed by the Chief of Staff, HQ USAF (CSAF).

____(5). Builds and applies historical weather databases.

____(6). Plans for and furnishes centralized weather services as directed by the CSAF.

____(7). Collects, quality controls, and processes worldwide meteorological data.

____(8). Manages the Solar Electro-Optical Network (SEON).

Column B


b. 50th Weather Squadron.

c. AWS.


002. Planning and managing a quality assurance (QA) program

1. What is a QA program?

2. Name some of the general information indicators for determining the technical health of a weather station.

3. What specific information should be covered in any QA program?

4. What does the record-special observation rate indicate?

5. How should all of the QA statistics be presented?

003. Mission and services provided by other military services and weather agencies

1. What is the single largest element of the Naval Meteorological and Oceanographic Command (NMOC)?

2. What element of the NMOC observes and records sea ice ridges, water openings and thickness?

3. What are hydrographic surveys and why are they important?

4. What five elements compose the basic forecast system of the NWS?

5. Name two components of the NCEP.

004. AFW concepts

1. What principles are the cornerstone of AFW in all military operations?

2. What are the primary weather functions required to enhance military operations are?

3. What levels of AFW functions are conducted to enhance wartime operations of combat forces, operations short of war, and peacetime operational requirements and training?

4. What publication governs the joint activities and performance of the US Armed Forces in joint operations?

5. Who is responsible for ensuring that appropriate METOC support is provided to all subordinate joint forces and components for the entire range of military operations?

6. The JMFU should be under the operational control of whom when the JMFU is deployed in theater?

Answers to Self-Test Questions


1. (1)d, (2)c, (3)b, (4)a, (5)d, (6)c, (7)a, and (8)b.


1. It is a management system for maintaining product excellence in the day-to-day operation of the weather station.

2. A brief description of the unit’s overall performance showing any trends, a summary of the significant problems along with the proposed corrective actions, the results of any previous corrective actions, any good show areas, and outage times for weather and communications equipment that are exceeding standards.

3. Terminal Aerodrome Forecasts (TAFs) and amendments, weather warnings, weather advisories, observations, and on-the-spot QA.

4. It should indicate how well weather conditions are being monitored. A high record-special observation rate tends to indicate weather conditions are NOT being closely monitored and vice versa.

5. They should be provided in graph format showing historical data and include a standard to judge performance.


1. The Naval Oceanographic Office.

2. The Naval Ice Center.

3. They measure and describe the physical natures of the ocean and the information is essential to guarantee the safe navigation of all United States’ ships outside our national territorial waters.

4. The National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), Weather Service Forecast Offices (WSFOs), River Forecast Centers (RFCs), Weather Service Offices (WSOs) and Weather Service Meteorological Observatories (WSMOs).

5. The National Severe Storms Forecast Center (NSSFC) and the National Hurricane Center (NHC).


1. Accuracy of the data/information, timeliness of the data/information, relevance to the operational user, unity of effort, readiness and some measure of effectiveness.

2. Collection, analysis, forecasting, tailored application, dissemination, evaluation, and integration.

3. The tactical, operational, and strategic levels.

4. Joint Chiefs of Staff publication 3–59, Joint Doctrine for Meteorological and Oceanographic Support.

5. The JFC, through the joint force METOC officer (JMO).

6. The JFC.

Do the Unit Review Exercises (URE) before going to the next unit.

Unit Review Exercises

Note to Student: Consider all choices carefully, select the best answer to each question, and circle the corresponding letter. When you have completed all unit review exercises, transfer your answers to ECI Form 34, Field Scoring Answer Sheet.

Do not return your answer sheet to ECI.

Please read the unit menu for Unit 2 and continue. è