What Are They?Edit
The military’s Air Defense Artillery is one type of air defense and in battle is known as anti-aircraft warfare. It is any method of engaging a military aircraft in combat from the ground. Starting with World War I when military aircrafts first hit the skies, various types of guns and cannons where developed to combat this new type of enemy 1. Now with the new era of technology, the military has guided missiles and surface to air missiles, which are much more effective in destroying enemy targets. One particular innovation, which involved fitting a fuse onto the shell, increased performance by time delay or proximity explosions before coming in contact with the target. This created a spread shot effect of metal fragments flying toward the target creating a great chance of destroying the target.
The THEL system, or Tactical High Energy Laser, is a relatively new system that cost $89 million and was developed by TRW inc. for military defense purposes. The THEL system uses a high-energy, deuterium fluoride chemical laser to protect against attack by short range unguided, ballistic flying missiles. When a missile is detected by THEL fire control radar, the radar establishes trajectory information. The target is tracked optically and then THEL’s beam director begins a “fine tracking” process, which then places THEL’s high-energy laser on the target. The energy from the laser is so powerful that it causes the warhead to intensely heat up and explode. During several tests, the tactical high energy laser has been proven successful shooting down 25 Katyusha rockets, but still has not been deployed.
Rail Guns are specifically interesting to military defense because it is an alternative to the current large artillery. Although still in development, Rail Guns would use small tungsten missiles as ammunition because it is light and easy to transport. In theory, Rail Guns fire at an extremely high velocity. Using a magnetic field powered by electricity, a rail gun can accelerate a projectile up to 52,493 feet per second, while the muzzle velocity of projectiles propelled by gunpowder is generally limited to about 4,000 feet per second. This extremely fast velocity would be less susceptible to bullet drop and wind shift than current artillery shells. All missiles fired from rail gun artillery would also be guided by satellite making it almost impossible to miss the target.
What Are the Negatives?Edit
With every new technology, there are negative aspects that follow. When discussing Air Defense Artillery, we find a few problems. For one, ground artillery is not very effective for long range targets. In fact, during WWII, the vast majority of bombers reached their targets successfully, on the order of 90%. In other words, our Air Defense Artillery was only effective 10% of the time. This forced ground artillery troops to fire at close range, which is more dangerous in two ways. One, it gives the opposition a longer window of opportunity to attack. Also, if and when their target is destroyed, hot debris from the explosion falls quickly and dangerously close to friendly troops on the ground.
When examining the THEL system, the main problem is mobility. A study completed in 2001 concluded that the rocket interceptor has “lots of promise” and further development should be pursued, primarily in enabling the system’s mobility. The program developing the mobile THEL system was trying to create a system capable of detecting, tracking, engaging, and defeating rockets, artillery, mortars, cruise missiles, short-range ballistic missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles. Despite the progress made with mobile THEL systems, the US Army stopped funding the project saying it was too bulky.
Rail guns are very controversial and probably have the most problems. Though, if this innovation becomes reality, Rail guns will most likely be the most effective aggressive defense out of all of them. The problems with Rail guns are the enormous power supply required to generate the energy, resistive heating causing intense heating of the rails, melting of the surface of the rails, and repulsion from the opposite flow of the currents going through the rails. Generating enough power to accelerate the Rail guns’ projectiles is a real challenge, in which capacitors are many cubic meters in size. Resistive heating is simply caused by huge amounts of electrical current going through the rails causing them to heat up immensely. This is similar to why electrical wires heat up. Surface melting of the rails is caused by the high velocity of the armature and the resistive heating of the rails. Repulsion is caused by opposite current flow with in the two rails3. Because the current in Rail guns is so great, the repulsion between the two rails is very significant and can actually cause the rails to push apart from each other.
- Could the debris from the explosion/destruction of the aircraft be dangerous to friendly ground troops and/or civilians?
- Is it safe to completely rely on these defenses in order to save human life?
- Are THEL systems and Rail Guns worth the time and money spent in development of these weapons?
- How dangerous are Rail Guns and what could happen if this technology was ever to fail (worst case scenario)?
- Should mobile THEL systems continue to be funded by the U.S. military?
History of ArmorEdit
Throughout history, humans have used various types of methods and materials to protect themselves from injury or death in combat. The first body armor was made out of animal skins and found to be insufficient at best. As civilization progressed, wood and metal was used in shields to protect a soldier, and eventually metal armor was worn by individual knights in battle. However, with the arrival of gunpowder, all of the known body armors became ineffective. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the use of soft body armor in the United States was recorded. Today’s body armor is crucial to the survival of soldiers, but controversy surrounds its use and effectiveness.
A soldier is Iraq or Afghanistan today is wearing what the military calls interceptor body armor. It consists of and outer tactical vest and two small arms protective inserts. Throat, neck, shoulder, and groin attachments are also available to the soldier. The vests main components are boron carbide ceramic plates that are inserted into the vest. When the plates are struck by shrapnel or a bullet, they absorb the impact and stop the bullet from penetrating the vest and hitting the soldier.
However, there are many problems and controversies surrounding the interceptor body armor. The most immediate problem is equipping every soldier with the body armor. Many men and women entered hostile territory without proper armor during the beginning of the Iraq war. The government responded by dedicating $300 million to properly equipping the soldiers on the front lines with armor. Another issue was the maneuverability of the vests. Many soldiers complained of the vests weighing too much with the ceramic plates and additional gear attached to it. On top if that, they also said that the vests were hard to move in and difficult to shoot accurately in when all the inserts were attached. This poses a major concern because the effectiveness of the soldier is compromised when the vest is worn, hindering him or her from performing their duties. Many men fighting of the front lines also said that if the ceramic plates were hit, they often broke apart, and was like the soldier was carrying around a bunch of gravel inside the pouch. This also meant that the vest was almost useless if another bullet or piece of shrapnel hit that spot of the vest.
Alternative Body ArmorEdit
A new and innovative vest called dragon skin was produced to replace the interceptor armor. This protective vest is made of “scalar” hard armor. The protective scales are arranged like scales on a snake or fish. This design allows for more movement, better protection, and at the same time a lighter vest. The downfall to the dragon skin armor is its lack of neck, groin, and shoulder coverage. However, the makers claim it has better torso protection. Another benefit of the dragon skin is the ability to take multiple rounds to the same area, and that the vest can take a higher caliber round without being penetrated. Military scientists say, "…it's good for a knife fight, but we don't want to take it to Iraq because of the ballistic issues." The scientists say that the dragon vest would not protect the soldier overall as much as the interceptor vest would.
As the controversy over cost, effectiveness, and ability to protect every soldier, the men on the front lines are simply cannot wait for decisions to be made so slowly.
Camouflage became an essential part of modern military tactics after the increase in accuracy and rate of fire of weapons at the end of the 19th century. Since the use of camouflage in the First World War, much advancement has been made. The most recent of these is the switch to the digitized camouflage pattern. This pattern has been proven to be more effective in concealing the soldier. The most drastic change is the removal of the color back. Black is no longer useful because it is a color not commonly found in nature and actually draws attention to the soldier. Other changes made are the use of Velcro instead of stitching and zippers instead of buttons. Some concerns made my soldiers are the noise made by the Velcro and zippers. The subtle noises of Velcro ripping and zippers being used could compromise a stealth mission and be detrimental to the soldier. The project manager for Clothing and Individual Equipment said, “It’s a functionality change of the uniform that will improve the ability of Soldiers to execute their combat mission.” The new digitized camouflage still must prove itself in combat before it wins the approval of the fighting soldier.
- Is the U.S. Government doing all it can to protect U.S. soldiers with the best gear possible?
- In this case, are the latest, greatest changes always the best choice?
- If a soldier feels the need for body armor, should the money come out if his/her pocket?
- Should the soldier have the right to pick what armor they will use, or should armor be standard issue?
- What is better; better overall coverage, or better vital area coverage?
- Are the changes made to the soldier’s uniform practical?
- ↑ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-aircraft_weapons (Accessed 26 November 2006)
- ↑ http://www.defense-update.com/directory/THEL.htm (Accessed 26 November 2006)
- ↑ http://science.howstuffworks.com/rail-gun3.htm (Accessed 26 November 2006)
- ↑ http://matrix.dumpshock.com/raygun/armor/armor.html (Accessed 20 November 2006)
- ↑ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interceptor_Body_Armor (Accessed 30 October 2006)
- ↑ http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/middle_east/jan-june06/armor_1-11.html (Accessed 11 November 2006)
- ↑ http://www.defensereview.com/article490.html (Accessed 20 November 2006)
- ↑ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_camouflage (Accessed 4 November, 2006)
- ↑ http://www.military.com/soldiertech/0,14632,Soldiertech_BDU,,00.html (Accessed 4 November 2006)