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Battlespace visualization and the Integrated Meteorological System (IMETS).

The earliest known collection of weather information provided by the U.S. Armed Forces was during the Lewis and Clark expedition of 18041806. President Thomas Jefferson directed Captain Merriwether Lewis to record the weather conditions along their journey west. (1) During the War of 1812, the U.S. Army Surgeon General directed Army medical personnel to make daily records of local weather conditions. The Army Signal Corps assumed weather observation duties in the late 1800s, with the most important application of weather intelligence being ballistics calculations used by field artillery units. With the birth of civil and military aviation in the early 1900s, the focus of weather intelligence shifted from ballistics studies to aviation support. World Wars I and II saw numerous examples of military battles and campaigns where the outcome relied heavily on the correct interpretation and use of weather intelligence. Perhaps the most famous U.S. military forecast was one that revealed a brief period of favorable w eather on 6 June 1944 that allowed the Allies to cross the English Channel and the subsequent D-Day invasion of France.

Visualization of the Battles pace

While General Dwight David Eisenhower did not possess today's battlefield visualization tools, he had maps, some imagery, and various types of charts. Maps of the terrain, obstacles, and fortifications along coastal France were painstakingly constructed, sometimes with the aid of clandestine surveys of the beachhead conducted in the months leading up to the operation. Imagery, produced during the previous few hours by special photo-reconnaissance aircraft, often supplemented and helped verify the information portrayed on the maps. They produced weather charts twice daily, showing both the current and forecast weather conditions across England, the Channel, and Western Europe. They annotated these weather charts with areas of high seas, poor visibility, low cloud-cover, turbulence, and high winds. These maps, annotated charts, and the imagery were the precursors to the battlespace environmental visualization tools used by today's warfighters.

Today we display weather intelligence graphically with other intelligence information as part of the common operational picture (COP). (2) The tool used to process and display weather intelligence is the Integrated Meteorological System (IMETS). The IMETS processes weather data, runs weather forecast models, and displays the weather forecast information on the COP. Figure 1 includes an overlay display of forecast winds on a COP map. In this example, the commander and various battlefield functional areas (BFAs) can employ the METS to visualize the wind environment over the battlespace, and can see areas of light and strong winds, as well as the wind direction. This would be extremely helpful for the Chemical BFA.

IMETS can also display weather forecast information over a COP terrain chart as Figure 1 shows. The visualization in the upper left of forecast precipitation amounts uses the terrain map of the same region. This example would help the Engineer BFA predict the trafficability of roads and the "stage-height" of rivers (ability to cross) throughout this area.

Another of IMETS visualization tools is the Integrated Weather Effects Decision Aid (IWEDA). IWEDA tactical decision aid (TDA) uses weather forecast information and weapon-system sensitivities to predict when and where the employment of a given weapon system will be effective, marginally effective or not effective, based on the weather. The METS IWEDA display on Figure 1 shows favorable and unfavorable weather conditions (light areas) for employment of a multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) on the COP map for the artillery forward observer. The Division Artillery (DIVARTY) BFA would use this information with other intelligence to choose the optimum location to site the MLRS observer. The IMETS VIS5D displays five dimensional forecasts along ground and air mission routes (see Figure 2).


The feature of IMETS that enables the Air Force Combat Weather Team (CWT) as a true force multiplier is the system's integration with the Army Battle Command System (ABCS). All ABCS systems fielded at the Version 6.X level have direct access to METS built into their graphical user interfaces (GUIs). Each ABCS client system is able to access the "weather" intelligence maintained in the Gridded Meteorological Database (GMDB) on the METS. For example, the All-Source Analysis System (ASAS) operator can use the "weather" tab on the ASAS GUI to request an overlay of winds on the ASAS COP, (depicted in Figure 1). In another example, the ASAS operator might request a terrain map from the Digital Topographic Support System (DTSS) and the precipitation forecast from the IMETS GMDB, resulting in the COP shown in Figure 1. Figure 3 depicts a typical employment of the METS as an integral part of the ABCS system.

System Status

The IMETS currently fielded is in two configurations. They are the vehicle-mounted configuration (VMC), IMETS-Heavy, and the laptop version, the IMETS-Light. Figure 4 portrays the IMETS-VMC configuration; corps and division CWTs have fielded the VMC IMETS. The IMETS-Light is the most common version; the Army is fielding IMETS-Light to aviation brigades, brigade combat teams, and to Ranger and other Special Operations Forces elements. Both configurations have identical intelligence processing capabilities. The IMETS-Light has recently passed the Milestone C review and its production and fielding have official authorization. Both configurations of IMETS operate with ABCS Version 6.X-complaint software.

Final Thoughts

Team IMETS has worked more than ten years to produce a system that provides badly needed weather information to Army commanders and staff. The METS has evolved alongside the Army's other intelligence processing systems. Today IMETS is the premier provider of value-added weather intelligence; there is no more accurate, reliable, faster, better-integrated system for processing and communicating environmental information to the warfighter.

End notes

(1.) Thwaites, Reuben G., Editor., Original Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Volume 1 (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1905).

(2.) The common operational picture (COP), is a graphical depiction of the synthesis of:

* Terrain.

* Weather.

* Current, projected, and planned disposition of friendly, enemy, and coalition forces plus noncombatant populations.

* Location and timing of significant events as they occur.

* Probable courses of action.

The spatial and temporal scale of the COP is appropriate for whatever echelon is composing the COP.

(3.) Team IMETS consists of U.S. Air Force airmen, noncommissioned officers (NCOs), and officers who employ the IMETS, the soldiers who maintain and support IMETS, personnel from the offices of the Program Manager-Intelligence Effects, TRADOC (the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command) System Manager IMETS, IMETS New Equipment Training Team and New Systems Training Office, U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) Software Engineering Center, and the Program Director of the METS program.

Major Pat Hayes is the Staff Weather Officer (SWO) for the Director of Combat Developments, U.S. Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. His previous assignments include tours as the SWO for the 82d Airborne Division, XVIII Airborne Corps, and the 7th Special Forces Group. He earned a Master of Science degree in Meteorology from Texas A&M University. Readers can contact MAJ Hayes via E-mail at Patrick. and by telephone at (520) 538-6472 or DSN 879-6472.

Master Sergeant Bill Simcox is the Staff Weather NCO (SWNCO) for the Director of Combat Developments, U.S. Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca. His previous assignments include tours as the SWNCO for the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He earned a Bachelors degree in Business Management from the University of Phoenix. Readers can contact MSG Simcox via E-mail at and telephonically at (520) 538-6493 or DSN 879-6493.
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Article Details
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Author:Major Hayes, Patrick M.; Master Sergeant Simcox, William J.
Publication:Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin
Date:Oct 1, 2002
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