The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron is known for hunting hurricanes in our hemisphere. But recently, this unit has been deployed a fair bit away from its normal haunts. Some of its assets are in Sri Lanka and doing a much less turbulent version of their usual mission.

According to an Air Force release, these Hurricane Hunters are helping gather data on the monsoon season. Monsoons, as described by the American Meteorological Society, are seasonal shifts in wind direction that often bring a lot of rain. In some cases, these monsoons can cause heavy flooding. Incidentally, many parts of the Southwestern United States are often hit by monsoons, too.


So, with annual, stateside monsoons, why fly halfway around the world to do some research? Well, one reason is that the weather can affect military operations, and the Indian Ocean is a particularly important strategic location for the United States Navy. From there, during Operation Enduring Freedom, carriers, including USS Enterprise (CVN 65), launched air strikes into Afghanistan following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

A WC-130J Hercules in flight.

(USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. James B. Pritchett)

The Hurricane Hunters are carrying out their research mission with the help of the University of Notre Dame, the Office of Naval Research, and the Sri Lankan government. The Office of Naval Research sent the research ship USNS Thomas G. Thompson (T-AGOR 23) to assist in the mission.

Preparing for start-up: A WC-130 on the flight line.

(USAF photo by Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

As is the case with their hurricane missions, the crews of WC-130 Hercules cargo planes collect oceanographic and atmospheric data on the monsoons using dropsondes and buoys. This also gives the squadron a good chance to train for their mission without flying into actual hurricanes — you can't exactly call it a "dry run," but a monsoon is much less intense than a hurricane.

A WC-130 taxis to its parking slot after completing its mission.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ryan Labadens)

The 53rd will be making a return trip to Sri Lanka next year to gather more data on monsoons. In the long-term, the data they're collecting may be of strategic use to the U.S., but it's also sure to help Sri Lanka and nearby countries, like India, better prepare for heavy rains and flooding.