SEOUL — Airmen from the 607th Weather Squadron this week will officially mark the installation of 15 remote weather sites and the upgrade of five others throughout the peninsula.

A ribbon cutting near the site at Panmunjom was slated for this week.

The sites, which cost a total of $1.8 million to install, help Air Force weather forecasters determine flight conditions and prevent accidents like the August 2002 crash of an Apache helicopter into a hillside, said Capt. Eric Metzger, 607th Weather Squadron.

"Weather where the chopper was taking off and the weather where the chopper was going were fine," Metzger said. "It was the weather in between that was bad."

He said that at the time, the U.S. military only had weather sites at places controlled by U.S. Forces Korea.

In addition to giving weather forecasters basic information such as precipitation, wind conditions and barometric pressure, the new sensors also provide information crucial to flight safety, such as visibility and the altitude of clouds.

After the 2002 crash, a congressional investigation determined that the U.S. military didn’t have enough weather sensors in the country. In late 2005, Congress ordered the military to purchase and install new sensors, Metzger said.

Five were bought and installed alongside sensors belonging to the Korean Meteorological Administration.

Metzger said Air Force weather forecasters had hoped to use their own sensors in tandem with KMA sensors, but the systems were incompatible and received the upgrade.

The 607th received funding for the project in early 2007. The first of the new systems was operational in March, Metzger said, and the most recent installation was completed in late May.

"The fact that we got these done in 15 months is a blistering pace," Metzger said.

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