The IAF’s weather forecasting unit is the only one of its kind in the IDF. The unit, which operates from the IAF’s operational headquarters, provides the IAF with 24/7 information regarding the weather and assists it with its missions. “Weather forecasting is intelligence for all intents and purposes”
The stormy winter months come with a number of challenges for the IAF. In order to make sure that IAF aircraft operate safely and are able to perform their missions, the IAF’s weather forecasting center provides real-time information about the weather in and outside of Israel and can forecast future weather conditions. “There is no other weather forecasting unit in the IDF beside us”, said Lt. Col. Eran, Commander of the Weather Forecasting Center. “Our main role is providing information to the IAF, but because we are the only ones who provide this kind of information we assist the IDF and other Israeli security forces as well”.
In order to understand the importance of weather forecasting one must understand the dangers of winter. “The main problem in winter flights is loss of visibility”, explained Lt. Col. Ilan, Head of the Safety Branch in the IAF’s Safety Center. “Despite the aircraft’s advanced systems, the aircrews cannot respond to their environment without this ability”.
“Every operation goes through us”
The unit’s forecasts are of paramount importance to operational activity. “Weather is intelligence for all intents and purposes. Everyone wants to know what they’re going to meet, ground forces and of course aerial platforms that are affected by the different phenomena in the atmosphere”, said Lt. Col. Eran. “Our job is to provide information so our personnel aren’t surprised and can prepare, from choosing the proper platform configuration to choosing the correct armament”.
The weather forecasting unit consists of about 50 servicemen and women who are divided into three departments: the weather forecasting department is manned 24 hours a day and provides the forecasts in real time. The department’s personnel, headed by a senior forecaster, examine the planned activity each morning and pair it with the expected weather. Besides the forecasts that the department communicates to the field, various units in and outside of the IAF consult with the forecasters in order to understand the current scenario. “When a surprise event occurs, we are consulted regarding the response plan in order to adapt the flight paths to the expected weather”, explained Lt. Col. Eran. “Every aerial activity, reconnaissance or attack oriented, goes through us. The weather affects every sortie”.
The Weathermen of Tomorrow
The unit’s second department is responsible for research and development. Its personnel examine the statistical products and are responsible for the unit’s computerized infrastructure. The third department is responsible for instruction and climatology. Its personnel are responsible for the different types of training the unit offers such as a weather forecasting course held in Palmahim AFB once a year. Besides training, the department deals with climatology, or long term weather forecasting. The IAF often plans significant activities months ahead of time and with precise statistics it is possible to estimate the weather that they will face.
In order to produce precise forecasts the unit uses advanced technology scattered throughout Israel. The unit’s TV screens display feeds from sensors all around the country that provide real-time data of wind, rain and other conditions. Besides sensors, the unit deduces data relevant to operational activity from models and maps as well.