Chapter V. Basic Research
Army Science and Technology Master Plan (ASTMP 1997)


9. Terrestrial Sciences

a. Strategy

Army doctrine has long dictated that commanders know the terrain. Coupled with weather, the resulting variety and dynamics of the terrain surface impact all aspects of the Army mission. Within the context of a force projection Army, terrain conditions are of paramount importance to mission planning, field mobility and logistics, systems performance, and unit effectiveness. The broad range of features and conditions found in cold region, mountain, temperate, desert, and tropical climates of the world can be either a formidable barrier or significant advantage for our forces. The key determinants are, first, a knowledge of terrain characteristics and processes and, second, the ability to incorporate that knowledge into our planning, operations, systems development, training, and doctrine. The topographic, geological, climatological, and hydrological character of the landscape are critical to mobility/countermobility, logistics, communications, survivability, and troop and weapons effectiveness. The digital battlefield requires detailed and sophisticated information about topography as well as terrain features and conditions. Environmental information and models need to be integrated with systems models to develop the ability to simulate and forecast system and unit performance. These capabilities are fundamental to the development of materiel that can perform effectively in worldwide environments, as well as doctrine that is appropriate for the wide range of conditions that might confront a force projection Army.

Terrestrial sciences research within the Army, which is directed toward meeting the above -stated objectives, is highly multidisciplinary in nature. The vision, long-term strategy, and research priorities for the terrestrial sciences are defined in the Environmental Sciences Strategy Plan, which is prepared by the Environmental Sciences Coordinating Group. This Group is composed of scientists from ARO, the Corps of Engineers laboratories (CERL, CRREL, TEC, and WES), academia, and industry. This plan outlines a strong multidisciplinary research program in the terrestrial sciences that emphasizes research in two broad areas:

(1) Solid Earth Sciences (topography and terrain; snow, ice, and frozen ground; and geotechnical engineering)

(2) Hydrodynamics and Surficial Processes (hydrometeorology; surface and subsurface hydrology; hydraulics; geomorphology; and coastal processes).

Major themes of the plan are reflected in the following paragraphs.

b. Major Defense Areas

Solid Earth Science— Characterization of the surface geometry and terrain features of remote or inaccessible areas is needed for enhanced planning and tactical decision making, as well as for tailoring equipment to the challenges of the natural environment. Fundamental data on the distribution and character of natural and man-made features, together with information about the dynamic condition of the terrain, are required for rapid mapping and such information must be coupled to models that quantify dominant physical processes to allow temporal forecasts of the conditions to be faced by soldiers and materiel. Enhanced remote sensing data acquisition capabilities (Figure V-18), system-organization and neural network theory, and advanced numerical methods are used to synthesize topography and terrain data base information. The Earth's surface features and materials interact dramatically with the boundary layer and weather systems, producing a highly sophisticated background within which targets are embedded. A knowledge of the many energy exchanges as a function of terrain character and climate, as well as their impact on the appearance of terrain scenes to sensing devices used for reconnaissance and target acquisition, is critical to both the development and deployment of these systems. Modeling of the physical processes operating on the Earth's surface is essential for the design of autonomous systems and the ability to realistically consider dynamic environmental effects in system performance and training simulations and in war games. No single factor has more influence on the performance or the ability to accomplish future missions with emerging autonomous or aided smart systems.

Figure V-18. Terrestrial Science Thrusts. Terrain mobility and other battlefield parameters are predicted through environmental modeling.

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Hydrodynamics and Surficial Processes— Research in hydrodynamics and surficial processes addresses two thematic areas. The first relates to the hydrologic cycle and focuses on hydrometeorology, rainfall-runoff dynamics, and fluvial hydraulics as well as the relationship between surface and groundwater hydrology. The second relates to the geomorphological character of the surficial environment and focuses primarily on physical processes operating in arid/semi-arid, tropical, and coastal environments. A knowledge of the topography and physical character of landscape leads to the ability to estimate hydrologic/physical response and, therefore, an ability to accomplish specific activities within the range of environmental conditions that might occur in different localities, seasons, and weather. Hydrometeorological conditions and surface hydrologic regime are determining factors in mobility /countermobility, thus impacting surface strength, creating barriers to movement, and/or at times allowing movement over normally inaccessible terrain.

c. Other Research Areas

Geotechnical research focuses on the strength and behavior of natural materials at a variety of scales, with a special emphasis on the cold/alpine regions. Of particular importance is understanding the time and temperature dependence of the physical, electrical, and chemical properties of snow, ice, and frozen ground, as well as the severe impacts of winter conditions on most equipment and soldier activities. Research in soil dynamics and structural mechanics is focused on the nonlinear response of deformable soils to transient loadings by vehicles, constitutive behavior of geological/structural materials to weapons effects, a determination of the response of granular materials to loading, and the failure mechanisms of pavement systems.

Environmental quality research is divided into four activities within the context of the Army mission of environmental stewardship:

(1) Cleanup
(2) Compliance
(3) Conservation
(4) Prevention

An aggressive cleanup research program investigates the fundamental physical, biological, and chemical processes governing the identification, evaluation, treatment, control and/or mitigation of past hazardous and toxic materials disposal practices. Research addressing soil, surface water, groundwater, and sediment contamination is conducted in four topical areas:

(1) Site characterization and monitoring
(2) Groundwater systems
(3) Site remediation (emphasizing explosives and heavy metals treatment)
(4) Environmental fate effects.

Compliance research seeks new technological approaches to permit Army activities while observing existing laws and regulations. Conservation research is directed at permitting the Army to preserve, protect, and enhance environmental, natural, and cultural resources consistent with the law and in concert with accomplishing the Army mission. Pollution prevention research focuses on minimizing or eliminating pollution at the source. Aspects of environmental quality research are also conducted within the basic research programs of the Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Material Sciences, and Mathematical Science.

d. Benefits of Research

Terrestrial sciences research is directly supporting Army Science and Technology Objectives (STOs) in Vehicle-Terrain Interaction, Digital Terrain Data Generation and Update Capability, Compliance Pillar, and Conservation Pillar. The complexity of the terrestrial environment can be a positive factor that the warfighter can leverage to operational/tactical advantage, when the features and physical processes occurring therein are understood at a fundamental level. Improved topographic and terrain information and an improved understanding of the physical nature and dynamic behavior of the surface environment particularly as regards possible impacts on the simulating, planning, and execution of military operations can be a dramatic force multiplier. Knowledge about the detailed character of a terrain and a capability to estimate when and where specific physical events or conditions will occur can be a great tactical advantage, in terms of both operational capability and preparedness. For example, an understanding of vehicle-terrain interactions is necessary for mobility modeling, an ability to remotely estimate precipitation and/or snowmelt infiltration and runoff is necessary to forecast hydrologic stage for river crossing operations, and an ability to predict sea-state conditions and near shore morphology is essential to successful logistics-over-the-shore operations. Research in support of the environmental stewardship mission will lead to the following results:

(1) The Army will conduct its activities in concordance with federal statutes.
(2) Contaminated sites on military installations will be cleaned up.
(3) Manufacturing pollution will be eliminated at the source.
(4) Natural and cultural resources on military installations will be well managed.