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Fly Into the Eye of Hurricane Irene With the Air Force's 'Hurricane Hunters


Within the U.S. Air Force is a group of weathermen that you'll probably never see in front of a green screen delivering the local, five-day forecast. No, these weathermen are much more hands on. How hands on? Well, consider that they fly directly into hurricanes in order to gather the most up-to-date and accurate data. And hurricane Irene hasn't been able to escape their dissection.

The group calls itself the "Hurricane Hunters," and is based at Keesler AFB in Mississippi. And despite being hundreds of miles away from Irene -- which is bearing down on the East Coast -- they've been flying multiple, daily reconnaissance flights into the eye of the storm.

According to a video report by AirForceTVRadio, the Hurricane Hunters allow the National Hurricane Center's forecasts to be up to 30 percent more accurate, which can make a big difference:

So what are those flights like? Luckily, the Air Force has released a video of one of the recent flights. According to the pilot, it does get bumpy:

There's also a NOAA Hurricane Hunter crew stationed in Tampa, and it recently took one local reporter with it during an Irene recon trip. That reporter captured the sometimes white-knuckled ride:

If you're curious about the planes the Hurricane Hunters use, you're in luck. The group has its own website and explains the aircraft's technology. According to the site, there are actually 10 such planes, which are really modified Lockheed Martin C-130s:

The 53rd WRS uses the WC-130J to penetrate tropical storms. These aircraft are not reinforced in any way in fact the only differences between a WC-130J and a C-130J is the addition of two external fuel tanks (giving them longer range), a radiometer pod on the left wing and the two addition crew pallets in the cargo bay (see below for more information on specific weather instruments).

The C130J is the newest generation of the C-130 Hercules which primarily performs the tactical portion of the airlift mission. The aircraft is capable of operating from rough, dirt strips and is the prime transport for air dropping troops and equipment into hostile areas.

You can read more about the plane's technology here.

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