Weather Support to the Warfighter
by Richard J. Szymber
Weather affects soldier performance, equipment capabilities, and
the ability of forces to maneuver on the ground and in the air.
Weather support is crucial to operational and tactical warfare and
will continue to be an important aspect of planning and execution
for Army commanders at all echelons. The basis for Army weather
support is requirements described as joint doctrine in the newly
revised FM 34-81/AFJPAM 15-127, Weather Support for Army
Operations. This article will address the Integrated Meteorological
System (IMETS) and the currently unfunded Automatic Meteorological
Sensor System (AMSS). Three sequential processes provide weather
support: collection of environmental observation data; automated
collation, processing, analysis, and application of data fields and
forecasts to predict effects; and dissemination of weather effects
products to the user. IMETS will accomplish these functions.
IMETS is a mobile, tactical, automated weather-data receiving,
processing and dissemination system designed to provide timely,
tailored, meteorological effects forecasts, observations, and
decision aids. They provide this information to multiple command
elements and their major subordinate commands at echelons at which
the Air Force weather teams directly support the Army. Their
customers include echelons above corps, corps, divisions, separate
brigades, armored cavalry regiments, and special operations forces
(SOF). It is an Army-furnished system comprising a standard shelter
and vehicle, Army Battle Command System communications systems, and
common hardware and software. Air Force Weather personnel operate
the IMETS, and Army personnel maintain it within the Army support
structure. Mounted on a heavy High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled
Vehicle, IMETS is deployable on C-130 or larger aircraft,
medium-lift helicopters, rail, or ships.
IMETS contains the computers and communications devices
Products will be in the form of weather messages and warnings,
preprocessed decision aids, tailored output fields for specific
decision aids and automated intelligence preparation of the
battlefield weather analysis, and also automated visualization of
weather situations and effects.
By understanding the effects of weather, seeing the
opportunities it offers, and anticipating when they will come into
play, the commander can set the terms for battle to maximize his
performance and take advantage of limits on enemy forces. IMETS
provides commanders and their planning staffs with known and
forecast conditions in the air and on the ground. This knowledge
enables them to incorporate forecast conditions into their planning
before a battle, helping the commander to choose the time, manner,
and place of engagement.
IMETS fielding began in 1995, with a total of 32 systems to be
fielded through 1997. Current users of IMETS are the Eighth U.S.
Army and 2d Infantry Division in Korea; XVIII Airborne Corps and
82d Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; and III Corps,
4th Infantry Division (Mechanized), and 1st Cavalry Division at
Fort Hood, Texas. Future IMETS technology and capabilities tested
successfully in Exercise Atlantic Resolve '94 and currently support
operations in Bosnia. The future IMETS capabilities will undergo
further testing in the 1997 Brigade Task Force XXI experiment.
- Receive information from multiple sources (including
meteorological satellites, local and remote sensors (including the
AMSS), artillery meteorology systems, theater forecast units, and
the Air Force Global Weather Central).
- Run high-resolution weather prediction models and automated
weather effects decision aids.
- Process this information for tactically tailored products.
- Disseminate them across the battlespace.
The commander who can best measure and exploit weather
conditions has a decided advantage over his opponent. The AMSS is
the initial development model of an automated weather-sensing
system for tactical use. It will measure weather and environmental
elements, record them, provide local read-out, and transmit the
data to the nearest IMETS. Data measured will consist of
Brigade and battalion S2s will operate the AMSS. It will be
lightweight, man-portable, and either vehicle-mounted or
hand-emplaced at key terrain points. Automated measurements,
collected hourly or more frequently, will go to S2s for their use,
and simultaneously to IMETS for integration into the weather
database. AMSS will also send these tactical observations to
theater forecast centers to enhance long-range and general area
forecasts for the area of interest. Although the materiel
development document (the Operational Requirements Document) for
AMSS gained approval in 1993, the system is not currently funded.
- Wind speed and direction.
- Barometric pressure.
- Rainfall rate and amount.
- Soil temperature and moisture.
- Solar radiation.
- When feasible, cloud-base height and visibility.
Tomorrow's weather support will feature the latest technology
in small, powerful computers with advanced forecasting models,
decision aids tailored to the situation, and timely automated
outputs in the format most useful to the warfighter. The focus of
future Army weather support will be upon the production and
visualization of information and decision aids that allow the
assessment of environmental factors' impacts on tactical
operations. This will allow plans adjustment to minimize force
vulnerabilities, increase relative combat power, and exploit enemy
limitations caused by the weather. IMETS will allow commanders to
"own the weather" by enabling them to anticipate impending impacts
of weather on friendly and threat capabilities for exploiting
windows of opportunity created by the weather.
Mr. Richard J. Szymber is a meteorologist with the
Battlefield Environment Directorate of the US Army Research
Laboratory (ARL). He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Geography from
Arizona State University and a Master's Degree in Atmospheric
Sciences from the University of Arizona. He is involved in research
in satellite meteorology in addition to developing and promoting
"Owning the Weather" (OTW) concepts and programs. Mr. Szymber was
permanently assigned to Fort Huachuca in June, 1995, to serve as
ARL's OTW liaison to the Intelligence Center and help integrate OTW
into Army operations and programs. You can reach him at (520)
538-6493/72, DSN 879-6493/72, and via E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.