21st OWS equipment 'forecast' saved millions



by Tech. Sgt. Michael Voss
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs


11/10/2010 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS) -- As the Sembach Annex realignment plan pushes forward to transfer control to the Army of the former Air Force base, members of the 21st Operational Weather Squadron are making smart resource choices to save taxpayer dollars in unnecessary equipment moves.

As one of the last Air Force assets left on Sembach Annex, 21st OWS leaders are working hard to ensure the scheduled 2011 move to Kapaun Air Station, Germany, is completed as efficiently as possible.

Project managers from the 21st OWS hosted leaders from U.S. Air Forces in Europe, the 86th Civil Engineer Squadron, 86th Communications Squadron, Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during a ribbon cutting for the new MARK IVB Meteorological Data System at Kapaun AS, Nov. 5.

The MARK IVB is an Air Force meteorological satellite system that comprises a set of three weather satellites that receive data from polar orbiting and geostationary meteorological satellites managed by the Department of Commerce and Department of Defense.

In layman's terms, the $2.5 million system enables members of the 21st OWS to provide real-time satellite imagery to support pilots and combatant commanders throughout Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia.

Currently, there are MARK IVB systems operating in locations worldwide including Manas AB, Kyrgyzstan; Lajes AB, Azores; Kadena AB, Japan; Joint Region Marianas Andersen AB, Guam; Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii; and JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

Although 21st OWS officials had some of the equipment for the MARK IVB operating at Sembach Annex prior to the Nov. 5 ceremony, leaders found themselves faced with a challenge of either upgrading the equipment at its current location and paying to install and move the system twice within two years, or paying for a one-time move and install.

"We knew we needed to upgrade the system." said Buzz Kandler, a MARK IVB installations manager. "The new system takes us from an L to X band, which allows a much larger data flow. It was absolutely a financial decision and a responsible one at that."

Mr. Kandler explained that setting up the system at the squadron's future home saved the Air Force more than $500,000, as it would cost $250,000 to set it up at Sembach Annex, then $250,000 more to move it to Kapaun AS 12 to 14 months later.

The actual physical process of moving the system and setting up the new antenna was a seven-week task involving the support of contractors from Lockheed Martin's Integrated Systems and Global Services.

"This type of forward thinking only makes sense," said Scott Gibbins, the 21st OWS Technical Services director. "When the squadron moves here in late 2011, we will be collocated with the equipment."

Until that time, weather technicians will still be able to use the MARK IVB system to assist Airmen worldwide.

"These satellites are essential to unmanned aerial vehicle pilots, who fly from Nevada," Mr. Kandler said. "They can't simply look out the cockpit window to see the weather, they rely on our systems images."