U.S. Air Force advances weather forecasting for defense missions with 6.5X faster supercomputer built by Hewlett Packard Enterprise



  • New supercomputer will support Air Force Weather, the Air Force’s meteorology division, for R&D on new weather forecasting capabilities 
  • The new system will be 6.5X faster than its existing system at a peak performance of 7.2 petaflops

A new system, powered by the HPE Cray EX supercomputers and now operational at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, introduces new forecasting capabilities across atmospheric and solar weather conditions to aid military aircraft planning and execution of missions worldwide

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) today announced that through a strategic partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), HPE has built a new supercomputer for the United States Air Force to support weather modeling and forecasting projects to aid U.S. Army and Air Force missions worldwide. The new system, powered by the HPE Cray EX supercomputers, is now operational at ORNL in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where it is managed by ORNL’s high performance computing systems team. Air Force Weather, the Air Force’s meteorology division, will leverage the new system to support research and development needs in addition to its operational role.

The new system is comprised of two supercomputers that the U.S. Air Force has named “Fawbush” and “Miller” after meteorologists Major Ernest Fawbush and Captain Robert Miller, who predicted the first tornado forecast at the Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma in 1948.

Fawbush and Miller, combined, are 6.5 times faster than Air Force Weather’s existing system at a peak performance of 7.2 petaflops, allowing larger computations at a higher resolution, increasing accuracy in global weather simulations from 17 kilometers between model grid points to 10 kilometers. The Air Force Weather uses the weather intelligence, across atmospheric and solar data, when delivering ongoing alerts, analyses and forecasts to U.S. defense missions worldwide to help military aircraft mitigate weather conditions and achieve readiness. 

U.S. Air force to Introduce New Era of Weather forecasting Capabilities

U.S. Air Force Begins Use of World’s Powerful Supercomputing Technology

The Air Force’s combined Fawbush and Miller system is one of the first operational systems to be powered by the HPE Cray EX supercomputer, formerly known as “Cray Shasta”, which is a high performance computing (HPC) architecture that was built from the ground-up by Cray to support the magnitude and diverse sets of architectures required for next-generation supercomputing. The HPE Cray EX supercomputer will also power the upcoming three U.S. exascale systems, including Frontier, which is expected to install this year at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The HPE Cray EX supercomputers powering Air Force’s Fawbush and Miller feature 2nd Gen AMD EPYC™ processors to enable significant compute performance to process large and complex volumes of computations necessary to simulate weather data.

“We are thrilled to have built the U.S. Air Force a new supercomputer that is one of the first operational systems powered by the latest HPE Cray EX supercomputer and managed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). The end-to-end HPC technologies made possible by the HPE Cray EX supercomputer will enable greater speed and dedicated performance to advance simulations in weather forecasting that were never made possible before,” said Bill Mannel, vice president and general manager, HPC at HPE. “We look forward to our continued collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory in supporting a range of complex science and engineering research, which includes powering ORNL’s Frontier, one of the nation’s upcoming exascale systems.” 

U.S. Air Force to Introduce New Era of Weather Forecasting Capabilities

The system’s new levels of performance and combined advancements will enable the U.S. Air Force, in collaboration with ORNL’s Computational Earth Sciences Division, to introduce completely new forecasting capabilities over the next several years to make breakthroughs in the following areas:

  • Forecast stream flow, flooding, or inundation to predict how much of a given land will be submerged in water and the level of its depth. Researchers plan to achieve this by creating a global hydrology model that involves simulating hundreds of watershed and drainage basins to eventually increase accuracy in predicting future events.

  • Remote sensing of a cloud-covered area to address how to navigate impacted missions through forecasting the formation, growth and precipitation of atmospheric clouds. Researchers plan to achieve this by using comprehensive cloud physics that are not made possible with existing statistical regression models. 

About Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is the global edge-to-cloud platform as-a-service company that helps organizations accelerate outcomes by unlocking value from all of their data, everywhere. Built on decades of reimagining the future and innovating to advance the way we live and work, HPE delivers unique, open and intelligent technology solutions, with a consistent experience across all clouds and edges, to help customers develop new business models, engage in new ways, and increase operational performance. For more information, visit: www.hpe.com.


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