Effect of near-surface hydrology on soil strength and mobility
History has repeatedly demonstrated the potentially negative influence of near-surface hydrology on military mobility. Increased moisture and saturation in soil results in a transition from solid to somewhat liquid states. As soil approaches the liquid state, the shear strength available for supporting traffic of ground vehicles or aircraft diminishes. Historical engagements elucidate the importance for armies to recognize soil conditions that could compromise manoeuvre. Since World War II, the US Army has pursued research aimed at equipping soldiers with the tools and knowledge needed to account for the impact of near-surface hydrology on mobility. Significant portions of the research have been focused on characterizing soil trafficability as a controlling factor in ground vehicle mobility and on developing methods for rapidly assessing soil conditions to ensure adequate bearing capacity for expediently constructed roads and airfields. In contrast, hydrological conditions can also produce extremely dry soil with potential for surface layers to break down under ground vehicle and aircraft traffic loadings, resulting in a propensity for extreme dust generation, an entirely different problem for military mobility that the research has also been addressing. Mobility problems associated with these adverse soil conditions have not been eliminated, but the research has produced significant advancements.
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This book, generated under the auspices of the Geological Society of London’s History of Geology and Hydrogeological Groups, contains 20 papers from authors in the UK, USA, Germany and Austria. Historically, it gives examples of the influence of groundwater on battlefield tactics and fortress construction; describes how groundwater was developed for water supply and overcome as an obstacle to military engineering and cross-country vehicular movement by both sides in World Wars I and II; and culminates with examples of the application of hydrogeology to site boreholes in recent conflicts, notably in Afghanistan. Examples of current research described include hydrological model development; the impact of variations in soil moisture on explosive threat detection and cross-country vehicle mobility; contamination arising from defence sites and its remediation; privatization of water supplies; and the equitable allocation of resources derived from an international transboundary aquifer.