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Hurricane Hunters take part in Navy operational demonstration

The Air Force Reserve's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron “Hurricane Hunters” depart Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 31, 2017, to take part in the U.S. Navy's Gulf of Mexico Oceanography Unmanned Systems Operational Demonstration. The squadron collected weather data for the U.S. Navy May 30 to June 2, 2017, as part of the event. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

The Air Force Reserve's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron “Hurricane Hunters” depart Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., May 31, 2017, to take part in the Navy's Gulf of Mexico Oceanography Unmanned Systems Operational Demonstration. The squadron collected weather data for the Navy May 30 to June 2, 2017, as part of the event. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFNS) -- While their typical mission is gathering weather data for the National Hurricane Center, the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron “Hurricane Hunters” spent May 30 to June 1, 2017, providing weather information for the Navy’s first Gulf of Mexico oceanography unmanned systems operational demonstration.

The Navy partnered with the Hurricane Hunters, and other agencies and academia such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Southern Mississippi, to demonstrate unmanned capabilities and explore joint opportunities in support of national defense.

“Partnering with the Air Force for the demonstration was really the perfect marriage because we both work continually to understand the constantly changing atmosphere,” said Navy Rear Adm. Tim Gallaudet, the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command commander and Oceanographer of the Navy, who flew with the Hurricane Hunters May 31 to learn more about their mission. “It is the mission of Task Force Ocean to ensure that the U.S. Navy maintains a competitive advantage in our ability to exploit the ocean environment…and our close partnership with the Air Force ensures we do just that.”

Gallaudet, who led the demonstration, directs and oversees more than 2,500 military and civilian personnel who collect, process and exploit environmental information to assist Fleet and Joint Commanders in all warfare areas to make better decisions faster than the adversary.

“The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron was thrilled to be asked to participate in this naval demonstration,” said Lt. Col. Kaitlyn Woods, the 53rd WRS chief meteorologist. “This joint training opportunity has reinforced that the data we provide ensures the Navy has a better picture of how environmental factors can impact the Navy fleet and their operations.”

In preparation for the event, the Hurricane Hunters dropped two profiling floats and three surface drifter buoys April 12, providing the devices time to drift into the operational demonstration area. These unmanned systems measured ocean conductivity, temperature and depth. During the demonstration, the Hurricane Hunters flew a 1.5 hour mission each day of the demonstration, releasing up to six dropsondes at precoordinated points along the operational demonstration track. The dropsondes, along with the Stepped Frequency Microwave Radiometer on the wing of the aircraft, provided temperature, pressure, humidity and atmospheric wind data during the event. This weather information was relayed to the Naval Oceanographic Office, who input the data into ocean and atmospheric models for operational use.

All operations and observations collected by various agencies during the event were input into a common operational picture presented to community leaders at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center-Battlefield Airmen Center June 1. Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant also announced the creation of the Governor’s Ocean Task Force during a ceremonial executive order signing.

“What we will do is not only look at the military application, but the commercial applications to help build the economy and add more jobs on the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” said Bryant.

For the Hurricane Hunters, participating in this first-of-a-kind event was an opportunity to exhibit their mission.

“The demonstration showcased our joint capability,” said Maj. Brad Roundtree, a 53rd WRS pilot. “We not only have the ability to collect data for National Hurricane Center forecasts, but can also enhance the capability of other units by providing weather information for operational use.”

(Kaley Turfitt, Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command Public Affairs, contributed to this article.)

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