Carl Vinson Launches First Weather Balloon in Three Years

Story Number: NNS081016-22Release Date: 10/16/2008 6:18:00 AM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kristan Robertson, USS Carl Vinson Public Affairs

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- The operations department aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) launched a weather balloon from the ship's flight deck Oct. 1, an evolution that has not been conducted since the ship entered its refueling complex overhaul (RCOH) shipyard period in late 2005.

The launch, which signals the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier's rapidly approaching return to the fleet, marked a significant milestone for the department's meteorology and oceanography division.

"We have been working for the past six weeks to prepare for this test for training purposes and to ensure the equipment is able to receive information properly," said Chief Aerographer's Mate (AW/SW) Jason Ehlenberger, leading chief petty officer for the division.

The balloon, which expands to 20 feet in diameter as it rises up to 1,000 feet per minute, carries a radiosonde beneath it to collect and transmit information about atmospheric pressure, temperature, dew points, wind direction and speed by utilizing global positioning satellite (GPS) technology.

Upon receiving the data transmissions, the ship's aerographer's mates then send an encoded naval message to the Fleet Numerical Meteorology Center (FNMOC) in Monterey, Calif., where the data gathered by the Carl Vinson crew is used in weather forecasts that are released to the public. Data from balloon launches at more than 900 locations worldwide helps to keep the forecasts accurate.

"We use our weather information on Carl Vinson to help with navigation and flight operations when we have aircraft on board," said Ehlenberger. "But the information is also used to help people around the world because we are basically one more point of information to help ensure accuracy."

The balloon launch proved successful, providing weather information for forecasts, as well as hands-on training for crew members on board. When the ship gets underway, weather balloons will be launched twice daily from the fantail and be carried by wind over the open seas.

Carl Vinson is undergoing its scheduled RCOH at Northrop Grumman Newport News shipyard. The RCOH is an extensive yard period that all Nimitz-class aircraft carriers go through near the mid-point of their 50-year life cycle.

During RCOH, Carl Vinson's nuclear fuel will be replenished and the ship's services and infrastructure will be upgraded to make her the most state-of-the-art aircraft carrier in the fleet and prepare for another 25 years or more of service.

For more news from USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), visit

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