NEXRAD back in service at new hilltop location
PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — Air Force forecasters in South Korea can now get a fuller picture of what the weather’s doing thanks to a project that moved their radar system to a hilltop site.
For years, the important Next-Generation Radar — or NEXRAD — had been in place at Camp Humphreys’ MP Hill section.
But the plans for massive new construction at Camp Humphreys called for placing several new buildings right in the radar beam’s path, said Air Force Capt. Rob Schlesiger, assistant director of operations at the 607th Weather Squadron in Seoul.
The squadron’s weather technicians wouldn’t have been able to get the weather information they need to alert the U.S. military in South Korea to such things as severe thunderstorms, hail, heavy rains and rapid shifts in wind speed and direction.
Such information helps pilots steer clear of severe weather and can help base officials know when to get aircraft rolled into hangars, golfers off the greens, swimmers out of the pool, and to take other precautions to protect the base community.
The radar system, known as the WSR-88D (Weather Surveillance Radar) is part of a network of high-resolution Doppler radars operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
NEXRAD detects precipitation and wind and displays it in a mosaic map that weather technicians use in forecasting and weather alerts that support air and ground operations.
“I think one of the best examples is probably during the monsoon season, when we have heavy, persistent rain events,” said Schlesiger.
In what became a two-year, $6 million project, U.S. military officials decided to move the radar to a U.S. Army site called Hill 448, a steep edifice in the town of Yangji, which is in the Suwon region, just under an hour’s drive north of Camp Humphreys.
Then came the heavy-lifting, which started soon after the radar was shut down Sept. 25.
“You don’t just move these things and put them somewhere,” Schlesiger said.
What had to be moved was a radar tower, with its big “golf ball” radome; three shelters that are very long, double-wide trailers; and electrical and communications gear housed in the shelters, he said.
Workers had to lay a road that would help them move up and down the steep hill to what would be the radar site, and they had to prepare the site itself — level a section of ground, lay concrete pads onto which the shelters would be placed, and install electrical grounding equipment.
“The real difficult part of this entire venture, one of the many, was bringing these large, 30-foot-plus shelters up this hill, a very winding, narrow access road, without incident,” Schlesiger said.
The move was completed by Nov. 1, and the radar’s now back in service at its new location.
The radar is so high up, that technicians now have a fuller picture than before, said Schlesiger.
“So we can see the weather coming at us from a higher distance, we have a larger scan radius that we did before,” he said. “And we don’t have any mountains or radio beams blocking.”
And while the radar can no longer pick up the lowest thousand feet, it gains the fuller view from higher up.
“We’ll have a 360-degree view of the weather coming at us from any direction, without the potential for urban build-ups blocking any of that beam path,” Schlesiger said.
He said airmen of the 51st Communications Squadron at Osan Air Base had pulled maintenance on the radar when it was at Camp Humphreys and will continue to do so at Hill 448.