Combat weather expands mission application through experimentation exercise

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Christian Little
  • 93d Air Ground Operations Wing

Three Airmen from the 3rd Combat Weather Squadron joined a team of Tactical Air Control Party members at an experimentation exercise called Training, Integration, Experimentation and Research (TIER) 23-3 in New Mexico, Aug. 16-18, 2023.

Staff weather officers assigned to combat weather squadrons have been increasingly participating in Air Force exercises to develop best practices for providing environmental sensing data and weather-specific observations from the forward edge of the battle space.

“Environmental sensing at the forward edge benefits the entire joint force,” said Col. Steven Randle, 5th Combat Weather Group commander. “While our combat weather squadrons will continue our traditional support to U.S. Army operations, it is important we also allow the Air Force to exploit our environmental solutions to improve air operations at the edge.”

SWOs identified an opportunity to build upon their Army-centric support skillset, but the fundamentals are very similar. Combat weather Airmen are trained to provide accurate environmental and weather awareness and translate its mission impacts for warfighters across the entire joint force.

Weather patterns can be unpredictable and create uncertainty in operating environments, so these SWOs specialize in reducing that uncertainty and exploiting opportunities created from understanding constantly shifting weather dynamics.

“It’s being able to take something that changes dynamically and constantly and being able to make it relatable to everyone,” said Tech. Sgt. Destin Yates, 3rd CWS Airfield Operations section chief. “To be able to take all the things that we know are changing, and, as they’re changing, relay that to the decision makers and the tactical warfighters at all levels, so they can make informed decisions on the battlefield that will affect the fight and give us that advantage.”

These SWOs enable air forces to have real-time weather data from the front lines which drives greater battlefield situational awareness.

“We can mitigate the small bit of intel gap that happens from a forecast that is made four hours prior from larger weather entities,” Yates said. “We’re bridging that gap to give real-time sensing and adjustments to the forecast. So, not only are the pilots more informed, but also the C2 back in the rear is more informed of what’s going on real-time.”

Air Ground Operations Wing members are experimenting with how refining existing weather products or completely generating new forecasts will benefit air forces going forward.

“The places we’re looking at potentially conducting future operations are very unpredictable when it comes to weather, so I could see this being a useful capability to explore further and utilize,” said Maj. Tyler Stearns, 93d AGOW operations and TACP officer.

Military leaders evaluate all sources of available information and intelligence to determine how to best utilize forces and generate optimal combat effects.

“Decision advantage occurs in areas where the variables change most frequently,” Randle said. “Weather can change multiple times within an hour, so if you want decision advantage in terms of the environment, you have to stay informed of these key variables and stay ahead of them as they change.”