May 16 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan) – When Alexander the Great`s army faced Raja Porus at the battle of the Hydapses the smart money, despite Alexander`s formidable reputation, should have been on Porus. Large and disciplined, Porus’s fighters had the home ground advantage, included war elephants in their ranks (terrifying to the already tired Greeks) and, notably, deployed archers who could more accurately be classified as artillery.
Their bamboo bows were over six feet long and fired missiles that were three feet in length. When fired in unison, the result was a hail of death that few armies could resist.
Unfortunately, these giant bows needed to be securely moored in the ground in order to be fired and, thanks to recent rains, the ground near the Jhelum was too muddy to provide a firm foundation. One could thus argue that it wasn`t just the Macedonian l
Weather has always been an important factor in military calculations, but it wasn`t until the First World War that meteorological staff became a standard element in military organisation.
In the Second World War, from the effects of the early and severe Russian winter on the German advance to the fog that impeded the Allies at the Battle of the Bulge, Mother Nature was the X factor. War correspondent Ernie Pyle, reporting from Anzio declared: `One day of bad weather actually harms us more than a month of German shelling.` US Gen Eisenhower agreed. He said, `If really bad weather should endure permanently, the Nazi would need nothing else to defend the Normandy coast.
So what if the German army had the capability of actually ensuring the said bad weather? What if militaries could move beyond predicting the weather to controlling or even weaponising it? This may sound like science fiction, but it`s actually been tried.
During the Vietnam War, the US struggled to prevent the Vietcong from using the Ho Chi Minh trail to resupply themselves with men and material. In addition to using defoliants like Agent Orange, Pentagon planners also tried a new tack: using cloud seeding technologies to increase the span of the Southeast Asian monsoon season with the aim of `softening road surfaces, causing landslides, washing out river crossings`, and thus impeding the Viet Cong`s logistics.
The project, dubbed Operation Popeye, ran from 1965-1972 and was at least a partial success, with reports claiming that it succeeded in extending the monsoon season by over a month. This would have remained a secret but for journalist Jack Anderson, who exposed this operationin1971.
Following this `weathergate` the US Congress banned environmental warfare and in 1978, an international treaty called the Environmental Modification Convention was signed prohibiting the military use of environmental modification techniques.
But playing God is addictive, and in 1996 a report was presented to the US Air Force titled Weather as a force multiplier: Owning the weather in 2025.
The paper predicts that by 2025, weather modification will `become a part of national security policy` in the US, and can provide `battlefield dominance to a degree never before imagined`.
It starts out small, outlining how fog can be created on the tactical level to confound enemy operations, before moving on to being able to `trigger or intensify thunderstorm cells` with the aim of grounding enemy aircraft and damaging enemy assets. Here the report notes that a tropical storm has energy equal to 10,000 one megaton hydrogen bombs.
All this is eminently doable, the authors of the report claimed, requiring nothing more than the further development of existing technologies such as UAVs, cloud seeding and customised low-orbit satellites. Twenty years after the report was published, all these technologies, and more, exist.
Weather manipulation is commonplace, being widely used in China and Dubai for example, and miniaturised drones and nanotechnology are very much a reality. As with most such dual-use technologies all that is required is the will and resources to weaponise what already exists, and what general worth his stars would pass up the chance to rain lighting down on his enemies like a latter-day Zeus? The report also highlights the need for research into the ionosphere, with a view towards `modifying` it in order to block enemy communications. That research is already being conducted at The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Programme, which is a favourite bogeyman of conspiracy theorists worldwide.
While HAARP almost certainly isn`t capable of creating storms and earthquakes, as the tin-foil hat set believes, it would be naïve to think the research doesn`t have military applications. After all, history shows that when military capability exists it will almost certainly be used. With global climate change ushering in an era of extreme and unpredictable weather, the very idea of any nation possessing the capability to alter, perhaps control, weather even on a tactical scale should give us pause.
The writer is a journalist. Twitter: @zarrarkhuhro
This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan