The Fronts and Atlantic Storm-Track Experiment (FASTEX) will address the life cycle of cyclones evolving over the North Atlantic Ocean in January and February 1997. The objectives of FASTEX are to improve the forecasts of end-of-storm-track cyclogenesis (primarily in the eastern Atlantic but with applicability to the Pacific) in the range 24 to 72 h, to enable the testing of theoretical ideas on cyclone formation and development, and to document the vertical and the mesoscale structure of cloud systems in mature cyclones and their relation to the dynamics. The observing system includes ships that will remain in the vicinity of the main baroclinic zone in the central Atlantic Ocean, jet aircraft that will fly and drop sondes off the east coast of North America or over the central Atlantic Ocean, turboprop aircraft that will survey mature cyclones off Ireland with dropsondes, and airborne Doppler radars, including ASTRAIA/ELDORA. Radiosounding frequency around the North Atlantic basin will be increased, as well as the number of drifting buoys. These facilities will be activated during multiple-day intensive observing periods in order to observe the same meteorological systems at several stages of their life cycle. A central archive will be developed in quasi-real time in Toulouse, France, thus allowing data to be made widely available to the scientific community.