JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska --
RED FLAG-Alaska 22-3, a Pacific Air Forces exercise, started on July 28 and is scheduled to take place until August 12 in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex. The JPARC is the largest instrumented air, ground and electronic combat training range in the world, making it the ideal space to simulate real-world combat readiness training while strengthening the bond between allies.
The success and usefulness of training over the JPARC hinge on the weather forecasts provided by the 3rd Operations Support Squadron. It is the job of the 3rd OSS weather flight to extrapolate relevant information pulled from over 30 different sources, then give that information to the supervisor of flying.
Knowing is half the battle; accurate and timely information enables sound decisions to be made in every military operation.
“Just before the aircrew gets ready to step to the airframe, the pilots are briefed about the weather from the data we provide.” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Caldwell, 3rd Operations Support Squadron weather forecaster. “Safety is the name of the game. We want to ensure that the aircrew has all the data points they need for a successful sortie.”
Weather information that is collected and shared has a direct impact on what can be done. Factors like fast winds and low ceilings can impede the effectiveness of jumps. Additionally, solar flares can also cause radio blackouts, GPS failures, and difficulties with onboard flight instruments.
U.S. Air Force weather forecasters work directly with the 557th Weather Wing, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other agencies to ensure a safe flight.
“If it’s super nice out, then the weather is an afterthought.” said Capt. Shaun Morrison, 909th Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker pilot. “However, bad weather certainly affects the mission. Our job is to put fuel in jets, and having weather forecasters find temperate airspace ensures that we can fuel the fight.”
The 3rd OSS weather flight keeps tabs on 12.3 million acres of airspace.
“It feels fantastic to have a direct impact,” Caldwell said. “For example, infrared forecasting helps us and our allies stay alive when flying near SAM sites. So, hearing a job well done, or even direct feedback is a great feeling.”
Weather flights’ involvement in Red Flag 22-3 is crucial in support of combat readiness for the U.S. and international forces.