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Understanding the Weather Is Key Factor in Military Operations

Mar. 26, 2014 - 03:45AM   |  
By CHRISTOPHER P. CAVAS   |   Comments
Ships traveling the gulf region must be aware of and compensate for a variety of weather and environmental conditions.
Ships traveling the gulf region must be aware of and compensate for a variety of weather and environmental conditions. (Christopher P. Cavas)
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DOHA, QATAR — High salinity levels and thick humidity. Dense ocean thermal layers. Shifting currents and winds. Sandstorms, rainstorms, and, of course, severely high temperatures.

All are features of the Arabian Gulf, and all can affect the performance of military sensors and weapons. Understanding those effects and adapting operations to compensate for them can be key to the success of a mission.

Standing by to help is the Met Office, the national weather service of the United Kingdom, providing weather forecasts not only to the public, but also to armed and security forces in the UK, Middle East and worldwide.

“Our aim is to advise military commanders how to adjust” to environmental conditions, said Cmdr. Derek Swannick, a meteorologist, hydrographer and oceanographer working as the Royal Navy’s military liaison to the Met Office.

If conditions adversely affect sensors such as radars, Swannick said, “we work with warfare teams to try and provide alternatives, such as electro-optical systems or other radars. Sometimes the key is to move to a different operating area.”

Systems developed by the Met can work to forecast astronomical data, Swannick said, such as predicting how low clouds might reflect light at night and affect night vision equipment.

“The performance of night vision goggles is measured in background light,” he said. “We can advise when the best time for operations might be.”

Temperature differences in the water and atmosphere can determine, for instance, how a fast attack craft might appear through an electro-optical device as it crosses between water and land masses, Swannick said.

“We have a range of tools to support commanders to optimize their decisions,” he said.

Swannick showed how a variety of Met-developed software programs can predict the effects of gamma and alpha rays, sunspots and other phenomena on a range of sensors.

One program, Neon, was specifically designed as a tactical decision aid to determine electro-optical performance. Factoring in data from multiple sources, the program can estimate target acquisition range, forecasting temperature changes over time and predicting how targets large and small will appear.

Here in the Middle East, Swannick is working, he said, “to enable nations to exploit the environment to best effect.”

The Royal Navy, he said, is “here to foster collaboration with countries to understand the effects of their environments.

“Forecasting weather is relatively well understood,” he said. “Applying weather factors to military operations is where we’re trying to focus our efforts.” ■


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