Veterans of the old Air Weather Service look at the new equipment being used today in the Air Force Weather Agency and we shake our heads. The 21st Air Force in Europe has some really nice gear while the old machines were more like Machines than sophisticated Weather Electonics of today.
A lot has transpired since I left the Military on Aug, 11, 1985. The Weather Service itself used to be affiliated with Army, then the Air Air Force and finally the Air Force as we know it today. With all that change it was not only the designations but also the equipment that went through a kind of technological renaissance as well. From the more crude analog equipment and FPS-77 Weather Radar to newer NEXRAD and Doppler Radar.
The power curve for this new Weather product has brought the Air Force into the modern world. The newness of our equipment quite naturally will be determined by funding but quality forecasts and operational issues have kind of forced the Pentagon’s hand a bit and really that is a good thing.
While stationed at Ramstein, our teletype machine was crude and very tempermental. And you had to stand by waiting for the cue. At Ramstein our cue was VB and you were that maybe the ticker tape would break and that would really suck.
My weather observations were dependent on-real time weather data. That data and this doesn’t include live satellite imagery so we were kind of limited as back then (1980ish) we had to wait for the GOES (GeoSynchronous) for the latest run. Today that is not even a problem. Up to the minute satellite shots make forecasts easier by far and you do not even need anything more than a PC.
The fax charts had scheduled runs so that information was a premium to us. With newer satellites and sophicated equipment the different kinds of photos are so many that it is hard to keep up. Water Vapor Charts, Infrared Imagery and experimental algorithms have given the forecaster more to work.
Satellite imagery can reveal thunderstorm tops and locations and further enhanced what radar imagery could do. For example, the radar may indicate some weather but if you look at the satellite you can determine whether that is in fact storms. Sometimes radars would show what appeared to be rain when in fact it might just be buildings, geese or false echoes.
We also use other equipment which is what I call a weather matrix. All this data would enhance our understanding. Next is the weather fax machines. It was actually a radio broadcast that was downlinked from Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska to our receiver at the Base Weather Station.
One other thing is that we actually had hand held equipment for use in the field. I will show more of that down the line. When I was in the first fax machines actually burned the images
These charts were then torn off the fax machine/date and time stamped and hung on the walls of the Forecaster’s area.
These charts would sometimes be 20 feet long and we would have to process this paperwork so the forecasters could use it. The other equipment was generally stacked and configured as you see below.
To the far left was the Rotating Beam Ceilometer and it was used to use cloud bases below 3,000 AGL (Above Ground Level) . Next to the right of the RBC was the Temperature and Dewpoint Indicators in Fahrenheit back then.
Next to the right of Temperature Indicator was the RO-362, wind indicator. This was a record of winds during any 24 hour period. We would take checks to make sure it was synchronized and signed with our initials. Peak wind gusts were noted as were windshifts (WSHFT).
The final piece of equipment was the Transmissometer which actually helped us determine the Runway Visual Range (RVR). Base Operations would go out to the runway and determine if there was ice or snow on the Runway. We would then report that to the Air Traffic Control via local and longline through our observations.
From left to the right is a wind recorder, Comeds (longline transmissions) and temperature hut that protected the temperature from the sun and actually a fan to replicate wet bulb temperatures for humidity.
There are two other pressure indicators and the upper left is used to determine station pressure in MB/IN and Pressure Altitude and the bottom left is the mercurial barometer which is used to calibrate the Aneroid and Microbarograph and these were checked every day.
Upper right was the teleautowriter that is a box with a pen and we would write on that and Air Traffic Controllers and Alert Aircraft would be notified, especially the pressure because that would tell the pilot where he was above the surface. Pressure Altitude (PA).
The following is an updated Base Weather Station. It includes holographs, Upper Air Soundings (every 15 minutes) and Satellite, Remote Observation Site and Flight weather Briefings and Terminal Area Forecasts.