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RAWS fully functional at Minot

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Senior Airman Matthew Rohler, 5th Communication Squadron, checks for a dial tone between the Remote Automated Weather Station and the 5th Operations Support Squadrons Weather Flight at Alpha 01. The RAWS is a new state-of-the-art weather system that detects real time visibility, temperature, humidity and many other weather factors.

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Senior Airman Matthew Rohler, 5th Communication Squadron, checks for a dial tone between the Remote Automated Weather Station and the 5th Operations Support Squadrons Weather Flight at Alpha 01. The RAWS is a new state-of-the-art weather system that detects real time visibility, temperature, humidity and many other weather factors.

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Minot recently completed maintenance on five Remote Automated Weather Stations located at different missile alert facilities throughout North Dakota. 

The maintenance, which began in fall 2005, was completed Feb. 17 and made the RAWS fully operational after a four-year hiatus.

The RAWS have several sensors that collect weather information such as visibility, ceiling, wind speed, wind direction, temperature, dew point and precipitation amount. Several units in both the 5th Bomb Wing and 91st Space Wing here use this vital weather information for mission planning.

“[RAWS] sends the weather information it records over the phone lines to the 5th Operations Support Squadron Weather Flight, whose software uploads the information onto a dedicated desktop,” said 2nd Lt. Sarah Davenport, 5th Communications Squadron plans officer. “Weather data from the RAWS is also transmitted every three hours, which enables that data to be hosted and displayed at various sites on the Web.”

The weather information provided by the RAWS is used for a variety of purposes.

“RAWS now gives Minot base leadership another tool to use when deciding how to carry out missions by taking Minot missile field weather conditions into account,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Summers, 741st Missile Squadron commander. “Whether it’s base, flight or missile field operations, every leader wants to accomplish their missions and do the right things to reduce risks to our Airmen. RAWS helps base leadership make smart decisions about when to complete tasks, such as deploying operators, maintainers or security forces into the Minot missile complex, when weather conditions are challenging.”

An important benefit of RAWS is that it provides ceiling and visibility information useful to the 54th Helicopter Squadron when it comes to briefing Airmen before heading out on a security mission.

“The addition of the RAWS data enhances our situational awareness in the missile complex,” said Maj. David Smith, 54th HS commander.

RAWS were originally installed in 1999 by the Bureau of Land Management, which is part of the Department of the Interior. Their mission was to determine how weather conditions affect wild fire. After encountering mitigating problems, maintenance on the RAWS was discontinued and the systems fell offline. Three stopped reporting all together, while the other two provided unreliable data since the systems had not been calibrated. In November 2004, the process to get RAWS operable began again.

“We had five RAWS and they were being neglected in the missile field,” said Maj. Peter Knox, 5th OSS Weather Flight commander. “Over $1 million was spent to install this equipment that was just languishing out there. We wanted to see if we could get it all back online.”

The phone lines, which are the communication link between the RAWS and the weather team, were connected by technicians from the 5th CS.

“Without these reliable hard lines, the data collected by the RAWS goes nowhere, which makes it virtually useless,” said Lieutenant Davenport.

Another large portion of the maintenance was done by a group of independent contractors from Colorado Springs, Colo. They finished their maintenance on Feb. 17, making the RAWS fully operational.

“Getting the RAWS up to full operational capability wasn’t just a matter of snapping your fingers,” said Major Knox. “It took a lot of interagency work starting with the engagement of major command staffs and culminating in a cooperative effort between the 91st SW, 5th Bomb Wing, contractors, 5th CS, 5th Civil Engineer Squadron and the 5th OSS Weather Flight.”

“The RAWS refurbishment project was initiated from a mission safety, security and readiness perspective,” said Colonel Summers. “Adverse weather significantly impacts every facet of our base missions here at Minot. Those involved in seeing the RAWS project through to completion have strived to achieve the best weather situational awareness possible so Team Minot can safely carry out our Air Force missions and take care of our hard-working people.

“RAWS is a huge leap forward in reducing the risks associated with adverse weather conditions and safely carrying out our very important Air Force missions.”