Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather in 2025

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Weath­er as a Force Mul­ti­pli­er:  

Own­ing the Weath­er in 2025   


A Research Paper

Pre­sent­ed To

Air Force 2025


Col Tamzy J. House

Lt Col James B. Near, Jr.

LTC William B. Shields (USA)

Maj Ronald J. Celen­tano

Maj David M. Hus­band

Maj Ann E. Mer­cer

Maj James E. Pugh

August 1996



2025 is a study designed to com­ply with a direc­tive from the chief of staff of the Air Force to exam­ine the

con­cepts, capa­bil­i­ties, and tech­nolo­gies the Unit­ed States will require to remain the dom­i­nant air and space force

in the future. Pre­sent­ed on 17 June 1996, this report was pro­duced in the Depart­ment of Defense school

envi­ron­ment of aca­d­e­m­ic free­dom and in the inter­est of advanc­ing con­cepts relat­ed to nation­al defense. The

views expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not reflect the offi­cial pol­i­cy or posi­tion of the

Unit­ed States Air Force, Depart­ment of Defense, or the Unit­ed States gov­ern­ment.

This report con­tains fic­tion­al rep­re­sen­ta­tions of future situations/scenarios. Any sim­i­lar­i­ties to real peo­ple or

events, oth­er than those specif­i­cal­ly cit­ed, are unin­ten­tion­al and are for pur­pos­es of illus­tra­tion only.

This pub­li­ca­tion has been reviewed by secu­ri­ty and pol­i­cy review author­i­ties, is unclas­si­fied, and is cleared for

pub­lic release.








Exec­u­tive Sum­ma­ry

1. Intro­duc­tion

2. Required Capa­bil­i­ty

3. Sys­tem Descrip­tion

4. Con­cept of Oper­a­tions

5. Inves­ti­ga­tion Rec­om­men­da­tions


A Why Is the Ionos­phere Impor­tant?

B Research to Bet­ter Under­stand and Pre­dict Ionos­pher­ic Effects

C Acronyms and Def­i­n­i­tions






3–1. Glob­al Weath­er Net­work

3–2. The Mil­i­tary Sys­tem for Weath­er-Mod­i­fi­ca­tion Oper­a­tions

4–1. Crossed-Beam Approach for Gen­er­at­ing an Arti­fi­cial Ionos­pher­ic Mir­ror

4–2. Arti­fi­cial Ionos­pher­ic Mir­rors Point-to-Point Com­mu­ni­ca­tions

4–3. Arti­fi­cial Ionos­pher­ic Mir­ror Over-the-Hori­zon Sur­veil­lance Con­cept

4–4. Sce­nar­ios for Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Degra­da­tion

5–1. A Core Com­pe­ten­cy Road Map to Weath­er Mod­i­fi­ca­tion in 2025

5–2. A Sys­tems Devel­op­ment Road Map to Weath­er Mod­i­fi­ca­tion in 2025



Table 1 — Oper­a­tional Capa­bil­i­ties Matrix



We express our appre­ci­a­tion to Mr Mike McKim of Air War Col­lege who pro­vid­ed a wealth of tech­ni­cal

exper­tise and inno­v­a­tive ideas that sig­nif­i­cant­ly con­tributed to our paper. We are also espe­cial­ly grate­ful for the

devot­ed sup­port of our fam­i­lies dur­ing this research project. Their under­stand­ing and patience dur­ing the

demand­ing research peri­od were cru­cial to the project’s suc­cess.

Exec­u­tive Sum­ma­ry

In 2025, US aero­space forces can “own the weath­er” by cap­i­tal­iz­ing on emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies and focus­ing

devel­op­ment of those tech­nolo­gies to war-fight­ing appli­ca­tions. Such a capa­bil­i­ty offers the war fight­er tools to

shape the bat­tle­space in ways nev­er before pos­si­ble. It pro­vides oppor­tu­ni­ties to impact oper­a­tions across the full

spec­trum of con­flict and is per­ti­nent to all pos­si­ble futures. The pur­pose of this paper is to out­line a strat­e­gy for

the use of a future weath­er-mod­i­fi­ca­tion sys­tem to achieve mil­i­tary objec­tives rather than to pro­vide a detailed

tech­ni­cal road map.

A high-risk, high-reward endeav­or, weath­er-mod­i­fi­ca­tion offers a dilem­ma not unlike the split­ting of the atom.

While some seg­ments of soci­ety will always be reluc­tant to exam­ine con­tro­ver­sial issues such as weath­er­mod­i­fi­ca­tion,

the tremen­dous mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ties that could result from this field are ignored at our own per­il.

From enhanc­ing friend­ly oper­a­tions or dis­rupt­ing those of the ene­my via small-scale tai­lor­ing of nat­ur­al weath­er

pat­terns to com­plete dom­i­nance of glob­al com­mu­ni­ca­tions and coun­ter­space con­trol, weath­er-mod­i­fi­ca­tion offers

the war fight­er a wide-range of pos­si­ble options to defeat or coerce an adver­sary. Some of the poten­tial

capa­bil­i­ties a weath­er-mod­i­fi­ca­tion sys­tem could pro­vide to a war-fight­ing com­man­der in chief (CINC) are list­ed

in table 1.

Tech­nol­o­gy advance­ments in five major areas are nec­es­sary for an inte­grat­ed weath­er-mod­i­fi­ca­tion capa­bil­i­ty:

(1) advanced non­lin­ear mod­el­ing tech­niques, (2) com­pu­ta­tion­al capa­bil­i­ty, (3) infor­ma­tion gath­er­ing and

trans­mis­sion, (4) a glob­al sen­sor array, and (5) weath­er inter­ven­tion tech­niques. Some inter­ven­tion tools exist

today and oth­ers may be devel­oped and refined in the future.

Table 1 — Oper­a­tional Capa­bil­i­ties Matrix

Pre­cip­i­ta­tion Enhance­ment Pre­cip­i­ta­tion Avoid­ance
- Flood Lines of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion - Maintain/Improve LOC
- Reduce PGM/Recce Effec­tive­ness - Main­tain Vis­i­bil­i­ty
- Decrease Com­fort Level/Morale - Main­tain Com­fort Level/Morale
Storm Enhance­ment Storm Mod­i­fi­ca­tion
- Deny Oper­a­tions - Choose Bat­tle­space Envi­ron­ment
Pre­cip­i­ta­tion Denial Space Weath­er
- Deny Fresh Water - Improve Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Reli­a­bil­i­ty
– Induce Drought - Inter­cept Ene­my Trans­mis­sions
Space Weath­er - Revi­tal­ize Space Assets
- Dis­rupt Communications/Radar Fog and Cloud Gen­er­a­tion
- Disable/Destroy Space Assets - Increase Con­ceal­ment
Fog and Cloud Removal Fog and Cloud Removal
- Deny Con­ceal­ment - Main­tain Air­field Oper­a­tions
- Increase Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty to PGM/Recce - Enhance PGM Effec­tive­ness
Detect Hos­tile Weath­er Activ­i­ties Defend against Ene­my Capa­bil­i­ties


Cur­rent tech­nolo­gies that will mature over the next 30 years will offer any­one who has the nec­es­sary resources

the abil­i­ty to mod­i­fy weath­er pat­terns and their cor­re­spond­ing effects, at least on the local scale. Cur­rent

demo­graph­ic, eco­nom­ic, and envi­ron­men­tal trends will cre­ate glob­al stress­es that pro­vide the impe­tus nec­es­sary

for many coun­tries or groups to turn this weath­er-mod­i­fi­ca­tion abil­i­ty into a capa­bil­i­ty.

In the Unit­ed States, weath­er-mod­i­fi­ca­tion will like­ly become a part of nation­al secu­ri­ty pol­i­cy with both

domes­tic and inter­na­tion­al appli­ca­tions. Our gov­ern­ment will pur­sue such a pol­i­cy, depend­ing on its inter­ests, at

var­i­ous lev­els. These lev­els could include uni­lat­er­al actions, par­tic­i­pa­tion in a secu­ri­ty frame­work such as

NATO, mem­ber­ship in an inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tion such as the UN, or par­tic­i­pa­tion in a coali­tion. Assum­ing

that in 2025 our nation­al secu­ri­ty strat­e­gy includes weath­er-mod­i­fi­ca­tion, its use in our nation­al mil­i­tary strat­e­gy

will nat­u­ral­ly fol­low. Besides the sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits an oper­a­tional capa­bil­i­ty would pro­vide, anoth­er moti­va­tion

to pur­sue weath­er-mod­i­fi­ca­tion is to deter and counter poten­tial adver­saries.

In this paper we show that appro­pri­ate appli­ca­tion of weath­er-mod­i­fi­ca­tion can pro­vide bat­tle­space dom­i­nance to

a degree nev­er before imag­ined. In the future, such oper­a­tions will enhance air and space supe­ri­or­i­ty and pro­vide

new options for bat­tle­space shap­ing and bat­tle­space awareness.1 “The tech­nol­o­gy is there, wait­ing for us to pull

it all together;“2 in 2025 we can “Own the Weath­er.”


Chap­ter 1


Sce­nario: Imag­ine that in 2025 the US is fight­ing a rich, but now con­sol­i­dat­ed, polit­i­cal­ly pow­er­ful drug car­tel

in South Amer­i­ca. The car­tel has pur­chased hun­dreds of Russ­ian-and Chi­nese-built fight­ers that have

suc­cess­ful­ly thwart­ed our attempts to attack their pro­duc­tion facil­i­ties. With their local numer­i­cal supe­ri­or­i­ty and

inte­ri­or lines, the car­tel is launch­ing more than 10 air­craft for every one of ours. In addi­tion, the car­tel is using

the French sys­tem pro­ba­toire d’ obser­va­tion de la terre (SPOT) posi­tion­ing and track­ing imagery sys­tems, which

in 2025 are capa­ble of trans­mit­ting near-real-time, mul­ti­spec­tral imagery with 1 meter res­o­lu­tion. The US wish­es

to engage the ene­my on an uneven play­ing field in order to exploit the full poten­tial of our air­craft and


Mete­o­ro­log­i­cal analy­sis reveals that equa­to­r­i­al South Amer­i­ca typ­i­cal­ly has after­noon thun­der­storms on a dai­ly

basis through­out the year. Our intel­li­gence has con­firmed that car­tel pilots are reluc­tant to fly in or near

thun­der­storms. There­fore, our weath­er force sup­port ele­ment (WFSE), which is a part of the com­man­der in

chief’s (CINC) air oper­a­tions cen­ter (AOC), is tasked to fore­cast storm paths and trig­ger or inten­si­fy

thun­der­storm cells over crit­i­cal tar­get areas that the ene­my must defend with their air­craft. Since our air­craft in

2025 have all-weath­er capa­bil­i­ty, the thun­der­storm threat is min­i­mal to our forces, and we can effec­tive­ly and

deci­sive­ly con­trol the sky over the tar­get.

The WFSE has the nec­es­sary sen­sor and com­mu­ni­ca­tion capa­bil­i­ties to observe, detect, and act on weath­er­mod­i­fi­ca­tion

require­ments to sup­port US mil­i­tary objec­tives. These capa­bil­i­ties are part of an advanced bat­tle

area sys­tem that sup­ports the war-fight­ing CINC. In our sce­nario, the CINC tasks the WFSE to con­duct storm

inten­si­fi­ca­tion and con­ceal­ment oper­a­tions. The WFSE mod­els the atmos­pher­ic con­di­tions to fore­cast, with 90

per­cent con­fi­dence, the like­li­hood of suc­cess­ful mod­i­fi­ca­tion using air­borne cloud gen­er­a­tion and seed­ing.

In 2025, unin­hab­it­ed aero­space vehi­cles (UAV) are rou­tine­ly used for weath­er-mod­i­fi­ca­tion oper­a­tions. By

cross-ref­er­enc­ing desired attack times with wind and thun­der­storm fore­casts and the SPOT satellite’s pro­ject­ed

orbit, the WFSE gen­er­ates mis­sion pro­files for each UAV. The WFSE guides each UAV using near-real-time

infor­ma­tion from a net­worked sen­sor array.

Pri­or to the attack, which is coor­di­nat­ed with fore­cast­ed weath­er con­di­tions, the UAVs begin cloud gen­er­a­tion

and seed­ing oper­a­tions. UAVs dis­perse a cir­rus shield to deny ene­my visu­al and infrared (IR) sur­veil­lance.

Simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, microwave heaters cre­ate local­ized scin­til­la­tion to dis­rupt active sens­ing via syn­thet­ic aper­ture

radar (SAR) sys­tems such as the com­mer­cial­ly avail­able Cana­di­an search and res­cue satel­lite-aid­ed track­ing

(SARSAT) that will be wide­ly avail­able in 2025. Oth­er cloud seed­ing oper­a­tions cause a devel­op­ing

thun­der­storm to inten­si­fy over the tar­get, severe­ly lim­it­ing the enemy’s capa­bil­i­ty to defend. The WFSE

mon­i­tors the entire oper­a­tion in real-time and notes the suc­cess­ful com­ple­tion of anoth­er very impor­tant but

rou­tine weath­er-mod­i­fi­ca­tion mis­sion.

This sce­nario may seem far-fetched, but by 2025 it is with­in the realm of pos­si­bil­i­ty. The next chap­ter explores

the rea­sons for weath­er-mod­i­fi­ca­tion, defines the scope, and exam­ines trends that will make it pos­si­ble in the

next 30 years.


Con­tents | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | A, B & C | Bib­li­og­ra­phy