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Weather FGO of the year tells operators what’s up

STARBASE Academy explores extreme weather

Maj. Nessa Hock, chief of Weather Integration for Program Executive Office Digital, speaks to children during a STARBASE Academy Extreme Weather and Survival summer camp at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., Aug. 24, 2018. Hock has since earned the title of Air Force Materiel Command’s Weather Field Grade Officer of the Year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Maki)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Maj. Nessa Hock put weather data in the hands of operators who plan Army and Air Force flights and ground movements and earned the Air Force Materiel Command Weather Field Grade Officer of the Year for 2018.

Hock, chief of Weather Integration for Program Executive Office Digital, is a weather operator by trade and will soon deploy to the Middle East, where she’ll plan and provide weather support for ongoing military operations in the region.

“It’s not only mission effectiveness, time on target and equipment lifespan that Nessa has helped improve,” said John Dreher, her supervisor at Hanscom. “It’s fuel efficiency, too. If you can work quicker and respond to changing weather by changing altitude based on wind speeds for instance, you can save a huge amount of fuel over time.”

One of the projects Hock works on, called Weather Common Component, or WxCC, delivers and displays weather data directly into C2 systems. PEO Digital is integrating WxCC into the Zeus system, feeding directly into remotely piloted aircraft cockpits. Remote pilots often fly aircraft that are sensitive to extreme weather, which can impact their ability to complete missions. Zeus helps MQ-9 Reaper pilots know what is happening around their aircraft, half a world away, in real time.

“Weather forecasters in the field are still using Excel and PowerPoint to build mission weather products and compile data when we have all these great tools that could help by integrating weather on the operators’ systems,” she said. “We need to help the career field move to dynamic C2 [Command and Control] weather products, rather than static weather images, that can better aid planners and decision-makers in their high-tempo operations.”

Hock works in a directorate focused on the Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s goal to create a network of sensors. As the managers of the Air Force’s vast array of global and terrestrial-based weather sensors, PEO Digital is working to tie together as many of the systems as possible to create a more responsive and resilient weather exploitation system. One way they’ve accomplished this is by setting up a Weather Engineering Facility in their own backyard, consisting of one of every type of Air Force ground-based weather sensor system from multiple manufacturers and generations.

The WEF, literally located across the parking lot from the program office, provides a capability for government engineers to “take back the technical baseline” with hands-on troubleshooting, prototyping and testing, including “what if” exercises on actual sensors used by warfighters in the field.

Thanks to the WEF, Hock and other weather operators at Hanscom have access to very precise measurements of the weather at their workplace. They’re working to ensure every Airmen has the same knowledge about what’s going on directly above their heads, even in the most remote locations.