Remote Assessment of Airfield Thickness and Composition for Denied Area Access

S. Howington, R. Kala, J. Ballard, M. Bray, G. Galan-Comas
U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Mississippi, United States

Keywords: austere airfield, remote engineering assessment, distributed entry operations

Entry operations into denied areas may require simultaneous force projection, force protection, and sustainment through several distributed, unexpected, often austere, penetration points. A key aspect of planning these operations is identifying and assessing potential air ports of debarkation (APOD). Lightly used or abandoned airfields may be identified and their spatial extents (length, width) determined easily through military or commercial optical satellite imagery. It is more difficult, however, to remotely estimate the condition and functional capacities of these airfields. Normally, these determinations are made on-site by advance forces prior to aircraft landing. In contested environments, this work is dangerous and risks exposing strategic intentions. The research goal is to provide additional assessment tools to help prioritize candidate APOD using remote sensing, thus limiting the number of airfields to be confirmed with subsequent, ground-based evaluations. This poster describes a technique to estimate the thicknesses and thermal properties of an airfield pavement's layers by combining remotely sensed thermal data with high-fidelity physics-based models of fluid flow and energy transport. These methods were applied successfully to field data collections in Mississippi, in Washington and at Bellows Air Force Station, Hawaii.