I'm somewhat taken aback by the US military's latest request for proposals.
The U.S. military on Tuesday began soliciting bids from companies interested in developing biodegradable ammunition carrying projectiles — as well as seeds that eventually sprout into plants.
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The type of projectiles are not rifle rounds, but rather larger munitions including low-velocity 40mm grenades; 60mm, 81mm, and 120mm mortars; shoulder launched munitions; 120mm tank rounds; and 155mm artillery rounds, the notice states.
“The projectiles, and in some circumstances the cartridge cases and sabot petals, are either left on the ground surface or several feet underground at the proving ground or tactical range,” it states. “Components of current training rounds require hundreds of years or more to biodegrade.”
The proposed solution, then, is to develop a biodegradable material to replace the current training rounds — and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has already conducted research that shows bioengineered seeds can be embedded into biodegradable composites, according to the announcement.
This effort “will make use of seeds to grow environmentally friendly plants that remove soil contaminants and consume the biodegradable components developed under this project,” it states. “Animals should be able to consume the plants without any ill effects.”
There's more at the link.
This raises all sorts of issues, that should occupy military experts in various fields (you should pardon the expression) for years to come. For example:
- I'm familiar with the British slang expression, used when one has an accident or suffers injury, that one has 'come a cropper'. Does that apply if hit by ammunition that produces crops?
- Surely being hit by a shell filled with seeds constitutes biological warfare? One would think it could be described as an im-plant . . .
- Will the seeds be regionally appropriate? For example, would a shell fired into the Alaskan tundra be considered effective if it contains seeds more suited to the arid semi-desert environment of New Mexico or Arizona? How will users be able to tell?
- What if a shell strays into farmland, so that the poor farmer suddenly finds (say) a plot of prickly pear growing in the middle of his cornfield? Try explaining that to crop insurers!
The possibilities are endless . . .