97 OSS makes history with first weather balloon launch

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kari Degraffenreed
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Airmen from the 97th Operations Group and the 97th Operations Support Squadron launched a high-altitude weather balloon from the Sooner Drop Zone on June 15, 2023.

The launch was part of a new weather balloon program at Altus Air Force Base, which facilitates the launching of high-altitude weather balloons. It is designed to give forecasters with the 97th OG more accurate data when forecasting weather patterns for flying operations and severe weather preparations.

“These balloons launch up to 60,000 feet to capture data on the temperature dew point, pressure, wind speed and wind direction using a radiosonde device,” said Capt. Ryan Tharp, 97th OSS weather flight commander. “The data from the balloons helps us analyze the upper levels of the atmosphere to give us a better forecast for severe weather in the near future.”

According to Melissa Sims, 97th Air Mobility Wing historian, the weather balloon gave the 97th OG and 97th OSS valuable information soon after launching.

“Within a few minutes of the launch, they received valuable input on atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity, and wind speeds, which are essential in understanding and predicting incoming weather,” she said. “More importantly, the data collected that morning was used to advise wing leadership on how best to preserve the safety of personnel, residents, and assets at Altus AFB later that evening.”

Weather balloons are used throughout the Department of Defense, National Weather Service, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to provide accurate readings of upper levels of the earth’s atmosphere.

“This is integrating technology into our operations,” said Col. Scott Linck, 97th OG commander. “If this data helps us make a better decision to not launch aircraft because we have more weather data, then we save money for fuel and we also save training. It's beneficial, cost effective, and it's a great return on investment.”