The hurricane hunters of the air force reserve
The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron is one of a king. It is the only DOD
organization that still flies into hurricanes and tropical storms and it’s been
doing so since 1944. What actually started on a dare has grown into a full
fledged squadron responsible for tracking, measuring, and reporting on
tropical storms and hurricanes.
Equipped with ten WC-130J aircraft, this squadron is stationed in Biloxi,
Mississippi at Kessler Air Force Base. The aircraft and crew are part of the 403rd Wing.
With a history over fifty years, traced back to the 3rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron.
However, during this time, the B-17 was the aircraft of choice for weather reconnaissance during
World War 11. In September 1945, the 53rd became the first to fly into a hurricane intentionally.
It became their primary mission, however, and the name “Hurricane Hunters” seemed very fitting.
For the next several decades, the squadron was deployed around the world. Because there wasn’t satellite
communications, the 53rd would become responsible for collecting and transmitted data to weather
stations all over the planet. These weather stations would prepare forecasts for the U.S. Weather Bureau and
the United States Air Force. Another type of aircraft that was often used was the WB-25 Mitchell.
This was a medium sized bomber that ended up with a variety of missions.
It wasn’t until 1947 that the United States Weather Bureau would begin their hurricane warning service.
In 1953, all hurricanes would be given the names of women. It was a way for the public to easily
track the hurricanes. Several experiments were conducted by the 53rd with the help of the Weather Bureau.
One experiment tried to diminish the intensity of a hurricane by spraying the clouds with dry ice particles.
Unfortunately, this was not effective.
Once WWII had ended, the 53rd inherited several WB-29 Superfortress aircraft.
This was the first aircraft that was designed for the weather service with the letter “W.”
This was also the first aircraft that flew above a hurricane at an altitude of 22,000 feet.
A special assignment, though, was still to come.
In 1953, the squadron was flying daily into the far north and the children of the crew and other personnel
wanted their letters delivered to Santa. The word quickly spread and suddenly there were letters to
Santa pouring in from all over the world. The 53rd would be responsible for those letters for years to come.
There were other aircraft that were used by the 53rd over the years. The WB-47 Stratojet
would eventually be replaced by the WC-130 Hercules in 1963. After Hurricane Camille hit
the Gulf Coast in 1969, Congress wanted the Hurricane Hunters to be closer to the Coast.
By 1973, they got their request and the 53rd moved to Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi.
In 1975, the Air Force Reserve would activate the 815th Weather Reconnaisance Squadron.
Nicknamed the “Storm Trackers,” many combined missions with the 53rd would earn respect
throughout the Armed Forces. In 1991, the 53rd would be deactivated due to budget cuts and
the entire mission of hurricane hunting would go to the 815th.
The combination of tactical airlift missions and storm hunting would prove too much for
one squadron, however. The weather squadron brought back the “Hurricane Hunters” and
the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron carries on the tradition today.
If you or a loved one have served with the 53rd or the 815th, then you should celebrate that
services with one of the many styles of Air Force rings. You can easily customize
an Air Force ring with one of the hundreds of different insignia, symbols, and
emblems that are available.
In addition, you can have the inside of the band engraved with a personal message.
We source and sell a range of Air Force Gifts, please click here for more information.