The Rapid Update Cycle ( RUC), an operational regional analysis - forecast system among the suite of models at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), is distinctive in two primary aspects: its hourly assimilation cycle and its use of a hybrid isentropic - sigma vertical coordinate. The use of a quasi-isentropic coordinate for the analysis increment allows the influence of observations to be adaptively shaped by the potential temperature structure around the observation, while the hourly update cycle allows for a very current analysis and short-range forecast. Herein, the RUC analysis framework in the hybrid coordinate is described, and some considerations for high-frequency cycling are discussed. A 20-km 50-level hourly version of the RUC was implemented into operations at NCEP in April 2002. This followed an initial implementation with 60-km horizontal grid spacing and a 3-h cycle in 1994 and a major upgrade including 40-km horizontal grid spacing in 1998. Verification of forecasts from the latest 20-km version is presented using rawinsonde and surface observations. These verification statistics show that the hourly RUC assimilation cycle improves short-range forecasts ( compared to longer-range forecasts valid at the same time) even down to the 1-h projection.