MyWIDA helps solve complexities of battlespace weather

November 23, 2012

Story Highlights

  • Military operations and weapon systems are adversely affected to some extent by the environment, even those advertised as "all weather capable."
  • The My Weather Impacts Decision Aid (MyWIDA) developed by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory is an effective mission-planning tool that helps solve the complexities of weather in the battlespace.
  • MyWIDA is a fast, easy to use TDA for determination of how military systems are affected by the weather.

Military operations and weapon systems are adversely affected to some extent by the environment, even those advertised as "all weather capable." The Army has a requirement for a tactical decision aid (TDA) that provides quick identification and dissemination of weather effects on weapons systems and tactical operations.

The My Weather Impacts Decision Aid (MyWIDA) developed by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) Computational and Information Science Directorate's Battlefield Environment Division, located at the White Sands Missile Range in N.M. and in Adelphi, Md., provides that capability and is an effective mission-planning tool that helps solve the complexities of weather in the battlespace.

MyWIDA is a knowledge-based expert system that employs a database of rules for meteorological critical values and impacts. Its web services and associated applications automate the prediction and display of these weather impacts.

"MyWIDA's collection of rules and associated system critical values, aids the commander in selecting an appropriate platform, system, subsystem, personnel, including Soldier performance, or sensor, collectively referred to here as assets, under given or forecast weather conditions providing qualitative weather impacts for the selected assets," said Dr. Richard Shirkey, Weather Risk Assessment Team lead.

Shirkey said that each asset, whether it be Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines or threat, has a list of relevant rules that include red-amber-green (unfavorable-marginal-favorable) critical value thresholds for one or a combination of the weather parameters that affect the system. He said that these critical thresholds define the operational limits beyond which it is not feasible to operate because of safety considerations, decreasing system effectiveness or exceeding the manufacturer's operating limits.

"Significant deviations from these critical thresholds can prevent the successful accomplishment of a mission," said Shirkey. "Criteria for the red-amber-green impact thresholds, taken from Army FM-34-81-1 'Battlefield Weather Effects,' are: green (favorable) where degradation is less than 25 percent; amber (marginal) where degradation is from 25 to 75 percent; and red (unfavorable) where degradation is greater than 75 percent."

These rules are extant in the Army's 'Centralized Rules Repository,' currently hosted by ARL on the Army Knowledge Online (AKO) web site. The weather impact rules along with their critical values for the various Army systems have been validated through the Training and Doctrine Command's organizations, field manuals and the National Ground and Intelligence Center.

An example of such a rule might be 'surface winds greater than 25 knots (kts) preclude launching of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).' In this example rule, a surface wind of 25 kts or greater (the critical value) has been coupled with a system (UAV) resulting in a red rule.

"The first step in the weather impact determination process is downloading the weather forecasts from the Air Force Weather Agency (AFWA), accomplished through MyWIDA's area of interest (AOI) web service; both the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model and the Global Forecast System (GFS) forecasts are available," said Shirkey. "After a forecast has been downloaded and an AOI within the forecast domain has been selected the user must then select the asset(s) that are to be examined for weather impacts."

MyWIDA's underlying web services will then compare the rules for the selected asset(s) with the ingested weather forecast for the requested AOI. For each asset and forecast MyWIDA presents impacts on a Weather Effects Matrix (WEM), which displays the highest impact level found across the complete forecast model AOI including vertical extents or levels.

To see the distribution of the impacts across the AOI, the WEM may be interrogated for the desired asset(s) and selected forecast, producing a map overlay depicting, at each map point, the highest impact among all the selected layers. Clicking on any point on the map overlay, indicated by the arrow in figure 1 (see below), will display the invoked rule(s) as shown in the lower right quadrant of that figure; the display presented here is for the AH-64 attack helicopter and the 07-03 1800Z forecast period over the Korean peninsula. The user can also request viewing this data in 3-D format (see figure 2).

"In addition to being delivered to the Army's Tactical Airspace Integration System and residing on the –legacy Integrated Meteorological System (IMETS), MyWIDA has also been transitioned to components of the Air Force, Navy and Marines," said Shirkey. "Recently the National Weather Service has expressed interest in obtaining and using MyWIDA for civilian safety applications."

Shirkey indicated that MyWIDA is a fast, easy to use TDA for determination of how military systems are affected by the weather. He said various weather forecasts are available for ingest and thousands of systems may be investigated with results being presented in 2-D or 3-D formats.

"Using this predicted weather knowledge, we can operate smarter using the weather as an ally. We can take what the weather is going to be and tailor products to help the Army operator—how does it impact the mission tomorrow? How does it affect UAV operations?" said Richard Szymber, Weather Risk Assessment Team member. "With this automated, computerized system we can get the information quickly, timely, accurately and comprehensively."

The Weather Risk Assessment Team, spanning White Sands Missile Range and the Adelphi complex, is comprised of Dr. Richard Shirkey, James Brandt, Leelinda Dawson, Jeffrey Johnson, Steve Kirby, Dr. Dave Marlin, Dave Sauter, Jeffrey Swanson, Richard Szymber, and Subing Zeng.

 

Last Update / Reviewed: November 23, 2012