WC-130s probed this week’s major winter storm to enhance the accuracy of forecasting for citizens in the storm’s path. Aircraft and crews from Air Force Reserve Command’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron “Hurricane Hunters” at Keesler AFB, Miss., flew two long-distance weather reconnaissance sorties along the eastern seaboard over the weekend, officials announced. The aircraft seeded drop-sondes to relay wind speed and direction, temperature, and pressure, along a route from the southern tip of Florida to New York City starting Jan. 22, according to a release. “A hurricane is more of a fluid flight with lots of changes, whereas with winter storms, everything is already set,” said 53rd WRS aerial reconnaissance weather officer 1st Lt. Leesa Froelich. The storm set snowfall records in Baltimore, Md., dropping almost 30 inches, in addition to several cities in eastern Pennsylvania, which measured as much as 34 inches. Washington, D.C., received some 24 inches of snow, and Army and Air National Guard members from several jurisdictions provided aid to populations across the East Coast over the weekend.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.