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Forecasting the mission

A 48th Operations Support Squadron weather forecaster uses a laser range finder at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, March 20. LRFs allow the forecasters to determine how low clouds are and measure the visibility range. Airmen utilize the tools available to keep aircrews apprised of the local weather so they can stay safe before, during and after each flight. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Abby L. Finkel)

A 48th Operations Support Squadron weather forecaster uses a laser range finder at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, March 20. LRFs allow the forecasters to determine how low clouds are and measure the visibility range. Airmen utilize the tools available to keep aircrews apprised of the local weather so they can stay safe before, during and after each flight. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Abby L. Finkel)

The 48th Operations Support Squadron mission integration function NCO in charge, center, briefs 494th Fighter Squadron pilots about the day’s weather before takeoff at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, March 20. Before each flight, pilots are briefed on the weather conditions including cloud coverage, visibility, and wind speed and direction, so that they know what to expect while they’re in the air and can plan accordingly. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Abby L. Finkel)

The 48th Operations Support Squadron mission integration function NCO in charge, center, briefs 494th Fighter Squadron pilots about the day’s weather before takeoff at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, March 20. Before each flight, pilots are briefed on the weather conditions including cloud coverage, visibility, and wind speed and direction, so that they know what to expect while they’re in the air and can plan accordingly. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Abby L. Finkel)

A 48th Operations Support Squadron weather forecaster journeyman displays a surface analysis map during the office morning weather briefing at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, March 20. Forecasters support aircrews by keeping them apprised of weather conditions, which allows them to focus on the Liberty Wing’s mission to provide responsive combat airpower and support. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Abby L. Finkel)

A 48th Operations Support Squadron weather forecaster journeyman displays a surface analysis map during the office morning weather briefing at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, March 20. Forecasters support aircrews by keeping them apprised of weather conditions, which allows them to focus on the Liberty Wing’s mission to provide responsive combat airpower and support. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Abby L. Finkel)

A 48th Operations Support Squadron weather forecaster journeyman, left, briefs his office on the weather conditions for the day at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, March 20. At each shift change, the outgoing forecaster briefs the incoming Airmen on what weather to expect for the day. The 48th OSS weather flight keeps aircrews constantly apprised of the weather conditions, keeping them safe in the air and allowing them to complete the Liberty Wing mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Abby L. Finkel)

A 48th Operations Support Squadron weather forecaster journeyman, left, briefs his office on the weather conditions for the day at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, March 20. At each shift change, the outgoing forecaster briefs the incoming Airmen on what weather to expect for the day. The 48th OSS weather flight keeps aircrews constantly apprised of the weather conditions, keeping them safe in the air and allowing them to complete the Liberty Wing mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Abby L. Finkel)

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England --

Knowing what weather to expect plays an integral role in keeping Liberty Wing F-15s and HH-60G Pave Hawks safe in the air.

The 48th Operations Support Squadron weather flight is responsible for making sure that aircrews always have the pertinent weather-related information they need at all times.

Forecasts include information such as cloud cover, visibility, wind speed and direction, and are provided by 48th OSS weather forecasters working in conjunction with the United States Air Forces in Europe weather hub in Germany.

“The weather flight provides real-time updates during rapidly changing weather conditions to our aircrews via the supervisor of flying and our unit operations supervisors,” said the 48th OSS director of staff. “When they observe a decline in visibility and ceilings in the surrounding areas, the weather flight will notify these key nodes of decision making so they can delay aircraft launches and recall airborne aircraft early so they can land before the weather no longer allows it, or recommend the best divert airfield if our crews simply cannot land here.”

Weather forecasters report to their office at least four hours prior to the first scheduled takeoff in order to prepare forecast information, thereby ensuring that it’s ready to go when aircrews need it. It is then disseminated to the flying squadrons through an on-site briefing by weather flight Airmen or through a digital medium.

Aircrews are also briefed right before they step out onto the flightline, providing them with the latest and most up-to-date information available.

“The weather outside can change very drastically,” said the 48th OSS mission integration function NCO in charge. “We let them know if there is anything that's developed, if it's gotten worse, or gotten better, and give them that warm fuzzy before they step to the aircraft."

Forecasters continue to maintain a critical eye on the weather throughout the day, staying by the radio just in case they need to answer any inflight questions the aircrews may have after takeoff.

In addition to providing weather reports for aircrews, the weather flight is also responsible for base resource protection, putting out weather watches, warnings and advisories. The advisories are for any weather that will affect ground crews and people around base, such as thunderstorms.

By keeping the aircrews and Airmen on base apprised of weather conditions, the forecasters help maintain the Liberty Wing’s status as USAFE’s premier combat wing and its ability to provide responsive combat airpower and support.