Archive for the ‘Future Combat’ Category

Why Paper Maps Are Important

September 26, 2019

Wired_RussianMaps_060-new-edit-200x100-e1445899829873I acknowledge we live in the digital age powered by constellations of communication and imagery satellites and am not advocating that this technology be ignored. However, the reality of life on the ground in a pre-combat, combat or post-combat environment may not always lend itself to the easy navigation enabled by 21st century technology. Modern military and civilian life is dependent on Google Maps or other easy GPS powered navigation. Long gone are the days of stopping by the out of town gas station and asking for directions or unfolding the free map from the State Welcome center or even following the AAA Triptik travel planner (for those with a question this is the old school bound travel planner we all followed on our family summer vacations guiding us to the nearest KOA rest stop).

Prague photo by the author


So with all this technology in the palm of our hand or on our wrist why bother with a paper map? The military depends on the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) produced maps normally in 1:50,000 scale topographic maps that we all know and love having learned basic land navigation in basic training. This is great for well know battle spaces such as Germany or Korea but the likelihood of defending the Fulda Gap (again – you might have to look that reference up if you are post Reforger era) operating in foreign places NGA map products might not be available or not available to your unit when you get on the ground. For instance in deploying to Iraq in 2004 as an individual replacement and not part of a parent unit I bought a tourist map off eBay to ensure I had a general idea of where I was, where the friendly borders were and how the road infrastructure was laid out.

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Why bother? The mapping programs we all have depend on radio wave communication and computer processing to translate data into images and information we can use to navigate. With our current focus on Arctic Extreme Cold Weather operations we know that extremely heavy wet snow falling at time can affect reception due to multi-path error, which is the result of satellite signal reflection. Another element of extreme cold weather is the impact on battery life and power drain – your device might not work due to loss of power.

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Another critical area of battle space is in built up urban areas or in extremely hilly or craggy areas – real canyons or “urban canyon” effect where the city buildings block the signal. In this case a topographic map which portrays terrain features in a measurable way, as well as the horizontal positions of features is critical. The vertical positions, or relief, are normally represented by contour lines on military topographic maps. On maps showing relief, the elevations and contours are measured from a specific vertical datum plane, usually mean sea level.

Tourist road maps of a region in which the main means of transportation and areas of interest are shown are a great back up. Some of these maps show secondary networks of roads, historic sites, museums, and beaches in detail. They may contain road and time distance between points. The scale should be carefully considered when using these maps.

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Last, the United states military says in addition to an extreme cold weather battle space, the next war may be fought in mega-cities. (24 Jun 2018 The services have begun to plan tactics techniques and procedures for US Army and US Marine combat organizations to fight, not just within cities or industrial locations to include subterranean conflict. Wireless signals that are functional on the surface to make phone calls, send e-mails, or find GPS coordinates don’t do well penetrating through the earth. Signals can be obstructed by concrete, water, metal and rebar found in underground construction. To send a signal through an extensive complex, wireless receivers would be needed in a relay at each bend or turn, obviously not possible during an active operation.

Meredith Broussard who in her book "Artificial Unintelligence

When you prep for an operations in an unknown location a bit of research from Meredith Broussard who in her book “Artificial Unintelligence How Computers Misunderstand the World” presents a guide to understanding the inner workings and outer limits of technology and why we should never assume that computers always get it right. She indicates that a deep knowledge of the geography will help you to navigate it and to understand its culture and history. Further, print maps help acquire deep knowledge faster and more efficiently. In experiments, people who read on paper consistently demonstrate better reading comprehension than people who read the same material on a screen. A 2013 study showed that, as a person’s geographic skill increases, so does their preference for paper maps.

Ms. Broussard says that “reading in print makes it easier for the brain to encode knowledge and to remember things. Sensory cues, like unfolding the complicated folds of a paper map, help create that cognitive map in the brain and help the brain to retain the knowledge.”

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Further “the same is true for a simple practice like tracing out a hiking route on a paper map with your finger. The physical act of moving your arm and feeling the paper under your finger gives your brain haptic and sensorimotor cues that contribute to the formation and retention of the cognitive map.”

For more on this and related topics please find the details at

Pounds to Grams – not always straight forward in textiles

October 26, 2016

conversion-3Converting weight from one country’s system to another, especially for those of us with military experience in Europe jumps right to converting miles to kilometers where we know its about 1 mile to 1.6 KM – or next converting the price of fuel between gallons and liters? However, when we start talking about weight and working between the United States supply chain (with a few exceptions where companies continue to quote prices in meters and not yards!) we have to convert fabric weight from ounces per square yard to ounces per square meter (lets not get into denier and dtex!).

So why is this important? In the world of military personal protection, there are numerous measurable factors that when combines add up to some notion of comfort and performance.  MOLLEComfort translates into mission performance and staying focuses. At the crux of the issue is human performance and this really means managing the human core physiology. The amount of weight a soldier carriers is a key component to how well the conversion-2core performs and for how long. Weight can also impact how durable a textile material remains although the textile composition may be more important. How a fabric is constructed will also impact how well that material holds up. construction also impacts how air permeates through the fabric which enables the process of moisture evaporation and cooling of the core. Again, a more air permeable fabric may have tradeoffs with a less permeable fabric – but we stray.  We are talking about weight.

In many areas of human endeavor achieving the same or better performance with lessconversion-1 weight is usually a good thing and so it is with combat uniforms (to a point). So we need to know how to communicate current weight as accepted by US Military Specifications into a scale that international militaries can understand and use – enter grams per square meter.

The formula is pretty strain forward – one ounce is equal to one sixteenth of a pound or 16 drams or 28.349 grams.  WAIT – don’t use that formula! While a great formula for cooking recipes and drug measurements, it wont work for textiles because we have to consider the meter and yard lengths. Bates Jungle Boot

The answer is 1 gram = 0.03527 ounces. The textile geniuses assume we are converting between ounce-force/square yard and gram-force/square meter.   The derived unit for pressure is the pascal.  1 pascal is equal to 3.00750253989 ounces per (square yard), or 101.971621298 grams per (square meter).   The super smart people at helped me out with an example.

Question : If a fabric is 5.5oz/sq yard, how much is the weight in grams/sq meter ?
Answer : 5.5 oz/sqyd x 33.906 = 186.483 gm/sqm   conversion-4

And the mystery of converting ounces per square yard to grams per square meter is solved!