WC-130J Aircraft - Tracking Dangerous Weather
USINFO | 2014-09-29 17:59
Special plane is used to detect and follow hurricanes and winter storms.

The Lockheed Martin WC-130J aircraft protects America from another kind of danger – extreme weather. 

Weather Reconnaissance Missions
The Lockheed Martin WC-130J is a modified C-130 transport plane that has been equipped with weather instrumentation. The aircraft is commonly known as a "Weatherbird" in the U.S. military. The mission of the WC-130J is to locate and compile information on tropical storms, hurricanes and winter storms that may pose a danger to American people and infrastructure. The WC-130J is part of the U.S. military’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron based at the Kessler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi.

The U.S. military has been using aircraft to gather information and track extreme weather since 1962. The WC-130J is the latest in a long line of weather reconnaissance aircraft to serve with the U.S. military. Areas covered by the aircraft include the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific Ocean. The WC-130J is able to fly into a tropical storm or hurricane at about 10,000 feet and collect valuable data from within the weather occurrence - often in the eye of a storm.

Reporting Data Every Minute
The WC-130J Weatherbird is capable of staying in the air for 18 consecutive hours. However, most of its missions last about 11 hours and cover some 3,500 miles. When working in extreme weather conditions, the aircraft can report data back to the military as often as every minute. The plane also relays information to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida. Typically, the WC-130J has a crew of five people – including a pilot, co-pilot and navigator.

The WC-130J is equipped with state-of-the-art weather detection equipment, including a stepped frequency microwave radiometer that measures surface winds and rainfall, and a dropsonde system that calculates temperature, wind and barometric pressure.

The aircraft is frequently used to help hunt and track hurricanes brewing in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.


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