The US Air Force says its ‘hurricane hunters’ of Air Force Reserve flew one of its busiest-ever seasons.
The 2018 hurricane season, which began on June 1, officially ended on November 30 and the US Air Force said the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, assigned to the Air Force Reserve’s 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, flew more than 655 hours and 83 missions into 12 named storms over the Atlantic and Pacific oceans this year.
The 53rd WRS is the only Department of Defense unit that conducts aircraft reconnaissance missions into severe tropical weather during the hurricane season to gather data for the National Hurricane Center to improve their forecasts and storm warnings.
Major Jon Brady, 53rd WRS aerial reconnaissance weather officer, said: “It was a very challenging season due to the Atlantic and Pacific basins being so active, stretching 53rd WRS capabilities across their area of responsibility.”
The 53rd WRS is equipped with ten WC-130Js and its area of operations ranges from the mid-Atlantic to just west of Hawaii. Through an interagency agreement, tropical weather reconnaissance is governed by the National Hurricane Operations Plan, which requires the squadron to support 24-hour-a-day continuous operations, with the ability to fly up to three storms simultaneously with response times of 16 hours.
To provide this quick reaction aircrew and aircraft maintenance force, the squadron has ten full-time Reserve aircrews and ten traditional Reserve part-time crews available to fly the ten WC-130J Hercules aircraft designated to accomplish the mission.
There were 15 named storms in the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season including eight hurricanes, of which two were major hurricanes. This wasn’t as active as 2017, but the hurricane season in the eastern Pacific Ocean was one of the most active seasons recorded, with 22 named storms, 12 of which became hurricanes and nine of those were major hurricanes.
According to the National Hurricane Center, in terms of Accumulated Cyclone Energy, which measures the strength and duration of tropical storms and hurricanes, activity in the basin in 2018 was the third-highest on record, behind 1990 and 1992.
From November 1 to March 31, the squadron flies winter storms off the East and West Coast of the United States and in the Gulf of Mexico. They will also conduct atmospheric river reconnaissance missions in early 2019, to collect data to determine atmospheric moisture content that pushes into the West Coast of the United States each winter season, which assists flooding forecasts.
Source: US Air Force