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 necessary to
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.


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.


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