Friday, April 22, 2011

India Plans To Hire Weather Recon Aircraft Soon

SOURCE AVIATION WEEK India is expediting its plans to hire a weather reconnaissance aircraft over the next two years for tracking and collecting data on cyclones.
A senior official at the ministry of Earth sciences tells Aviation Week that the country is looking at hiring one WC-130J weather reconnaissance aircraft like those used by the so-called Hurricane Hunters of the U.S. Air Force Reserve 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Sqdn.
However, the official declines to reveal whether the aircraft will be hired from an international agency or from the Indian air force. The service late last year took delivery of the first of six C-130J-30 Super Hercules aircraft manufactured by Lockheed Martin.
The WC-130 Hercules is a modified version of the C-130 transport configured with computerized weather instrumentation for penetration of severe storms to obtain data on their movement, dimensions and intensity.
“As India has to track severe tropical storms, we need an aircraft like that,” the official says. If the Indian air force is hired for the job, “the Hercules C-130 will have to be instrumented and upgraded with surveillance sensors to make observations of wind and also identify cyclones in terms of wind, temperature and relative humidity,” he adds.
“The manned cyclone reconnaissance aircraft can reduce the errors in predictions about cyclone track, intensity and landfall by 16-33%,” the official says. “We will be able to limit the evacuation exercise accordingly, as the identification of people in need of help will be easier and more accurate.”
Cyclones usually strike India and neighboring countries between April and June, before the monsoon onset, or between October and December, just after it ends. On average, five cyclonic storms develop over the north Indian Ocean each year, including four in the Bay of Bengal and one over the Arabian Sea.
M. Mohapatra, a scientist at the cyclone warning division in India’s meteorological department, says: “The reconnaissance aircraft would help deal with cyclones better. Without direct observation, we don’t have reliable data.”
Lockheed Martin officials said last year that India is eyeing WC-130J weather reconnaissance aircraft in addition to the six C-130Js for its air force. The WC-130J can penetrate tropical cyclones and hurricanes at altitudes ranging from 500-10,000 ft. above the ocean surface, depending upon the intensity of the storm. The aircraft’s most important function is to collect high-density, high-accuracy weather data from within the storm’s environment, including the eye.
The WC-130J can stay aloft nearly 18 hr. It is equipped with two external, 1,400-gal. fuel tanks, an internal 1,800-gal. tank and uprated engines. An average weather reconnaissance mission might last 11 hr. and cover almost 3,500 mi. while the crew collects and reports weather data every minute.
Equipment aboard the aircraft includes the Improved Weather Reconnaissance System, which consists of the Atmospheric Distributed Data System (ADDS) and Omega Dropsonde Windfinding System. ADDS provides a horizontal atmospheric sensing capability. Sensors installed on the aircraft measure outside temperature, humidity, absolute altitude, pressure altitude, wind speed and direction once per second.

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