Tactical Weather Validation and Testing at Hurlburt Field, FL

Last week, I worked with the combined test team of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (LCMC), the 46th Test Squadron (46 TS), the 2d Combat Weather System Squadron (2 CWSS) at my old stomping grounds at Hurlburt Field, FL, to assist in the Technical Orders (T.O.) Verification and Validation of the Air Force’s most widely used weather system, the TMQ-53 Tactical Meteorological Observing System (TMOS).  The team also completed an Operational Utility Evaluation (OUE) of the latest image of the TMOS Toughbook, which included installation instructions for the removable hard drive.  Before my employment here at HB&A as a cybersecurity engineer, I was assigned to 2 CWSS from 2009 until I retired in 2017 as an Air Force Airfield Systems Technician holding the rank of Master Sergeant.  During that time, I was an evaluator for these events; however, this time around, I’m wearing an HB&A polo shirt instead of an Air Force uniform.  Suffice to say, nostalgia for me being back in my old unit was very high! 

These tests took place at the 2nd Combat Weather Systems Squadron (2 CWSS) testing and training facility. Since HB&A’s beginning as a company, both 46 TS and 2 CWSS have been invaluable partners in the development and maintenance of the TMOS throughout its entire lifecycle.  46 TS specializes in several areas, including aircraft defensive systems, tactical data links, information assurance, and command & control systems. 46 TS also tests the baseline of all Air Force weather information systems, from Fixed Based Weather Observing Systems (FBWOS) to tactical weather systems such as the TMOS.   2 CWSS is the Air Force’s primary weather test facility test mission is a critical link between contractor development and operator use.   2 CWSS specializes in ensuring weather equipment is operationally sound and technical maintenance documentation is valid for performance by weather personnel and system maintainers. 

T.O. Validation and Verification

While Haight Bey & Associates has performed numerous updates since the company’s inception in 2014, some HB&A team members have been a part of the TMOS T.O. development since 2007 (I was a part of the Air Force’s Validation and Verification team, while the TMOS maintained by a previous DoD contractor). The periodic updates to the TMOS T.O. address various upgrades to the system, modifications to communication protocols, and address operational and maintenance issues from users in the field.   Haight Bey is scheduled to update the TMOS T.O. on an annual basis.  If there aren’t enough satisfactory updates needed for the T.O., the Program Management Office (PMO) will waive the yearly update.  For example, before this year’s update, the last version of the T.O. was released in October of 2019.

While there were some minor modifications, such as the addition of multifactor authentication, the primary focus of this year’s T.O. update was the inclusion of the Iridium Moving Weather (MWx) configuration procedure.  This procedure was previously released in a Time Compliance Technical Order (TCTO) and needed to be updated and reformatted for inclusion in the TMOS T.O. Most TMOS Operators send formatted weather observations to a MWx server based at Offutt AFB via an Iridium modem dial-up connection.  Historically, most HB&A TMOS helpdesk trouble-tickets referred to MWx configuration issues. Therefore, this addition to the T.O. provided a more straightforward procedure and troubleshooting steps for the operator to follow.

weather, observing system

This year’s TMOS T.O. update began with a combination of customer-defined requirements (e.g., MWx configuration) and the inclusion of system engineering changes (e.g., multifactor authentication for the Toughbook).  After the Haight Bey & Associates technical writer performs all the required changes, each T.O. change is reviewed and validated by another TMOS engineer or the project manager.  Once the in-house validation process is completed by Haight Bey & Associates, the draft T.0. and spreadsheet detail all changes are sent to the LCMC Weather Systems Equipment Specialist for approval.  From that point, the TMQ-53 PMO schedules the T. O. Validation & Verification event in coordination with 2 CWSS.  During the T.O. Validation and Verification event, 2 CWSS weather system evaluators then perform and approve the new or modified procedures in coordination with the LCMC Weather Systems Equipment Specialist.  Over the week, the combined team successfully validated and verified all content changes, rewording, and rewriting for the TMOS T.O.

Air Force LTSC Migration

2 CWSS Evaluator verifying TMOS HDD Installation

At the government’s directive, Haight Bey & Associates successfully migrated from the traditional Air Force Standard Desktop Compliance (SDC) Windows 10 image to an Air Force Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) Windows 10 appearance on the TMOS Toughbook.  HB&A coordinated directly with the Air Force Enterprise Configuration Management Office to approve the LTSC image. LTSC is a version of Windows 10 for special-purpose systems where stability is the most essential requirement.  Migration to LTSC on the TMOS Toughbook alleviated several open vulnerabilities on the TMOS laptop that have been traditionally carried forward through previous images. Furthermore, the single mission requirement of  collecting weather data and transmitting it to Air Force agencies does not require standard built-in Windows applications like Windows Store, OneNote, or Cortana.  Eliminating these unneeded applications significantly reduced the possible threat vectors of the Toughbook. 

The Windows 10 LTSC OUE was directed by the 46 TS test lead and performed by 2 CWSS technicians.  The OUE consisted of the performance of tasks assigned by the applicable TCTO to install the new Windows 10 LTSC image hard drive.  Furthermore, a complete analysis was performed to ensure the successful operation of all software, hardware, and communication protocols of the TMOS.  During the evaluation process, one deficiency was noted, solved within 24 hours, and closed before the conclusion of the OUE.  

During the final briefing, one of the evaluators mentioned, “I like it when we have tests on the TMOS. The preparation and engineering are so good that it seems simple by the time we evaluate the systems.”  We believe the successful results of the T.O. Validation & Verification and Windows 10 LTSC OUE are due to the standards set by our diverse and vastly experienced team.  We make great efforts to make the system’s operation seamless while maintaining extremely stringent industrial standards. 

Matt Nece