Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather in 2025

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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