NEWS | Sept. 24, 2021

Projecting The Force, cementing a bond

By Capt Schaeffer McHenry Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Joint Base Charleston’s 15th Airlift Squadron recently teamed with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) July 15th through the 20th, to deliver Project Medusa to Anderson Air Force Base, Guam. 

 

Their goal was to deliver and test new technology that could create “an air base in a day.”

 

DARPA’s Project Medusa is affectionately named after the Greek mythological creature who turned victims into stone when they looked into her eyes.  Likewise, DARPA is turning bacteria into a bio-cement (or a stone-like substance).  They aren’t using their eyes as the catalyst, but their process seems just as mythical.  Scientists and engineers spread bacteria over soil and then feed them with a combination of saltwater, urea, and calcium.  Over time, they solidify and form a hardened, rock-like surface which the Department of Defense (DoD) can use to build landing pads, runways, and roads.  This technology may serve as the bedrock for the DoD’s new Agile Combat Employment concept.

 

Mr. Kent Smith, a DARPA contractor and the lead of BioMASON’s Research and Development Team, explained his team’s process and the importance of their mission to Guam.

 

“This mission marks the first-ever operational deployment of Project Medusa,” he said.  “We’ve validated this technology’s ability to serve as a landing platform for helicopters and CV-22s.  Our next step is to expand this capability and apply it to other key components of a base’s infrastructure.”

 

As the DoD prepares for the next fight, new technologies like Project Medusa could produce the transformational change we need to maintain an advantage over near-peer competitors.  Major Taylor Ragland, the mission’s lead instructor pilot, explained how these advancements produce a competitive edge.

 

“Historically, large bases served as America’s power projection platforms.  When pitted against peer competitors, this strategy is at risk.  To be successful in the future, we need to expand our access to bases and complicate our adversaries’ firing solutions,” he explained.  “If we can grow runways out of bacteria, we can project airpower on our terms and in places where our enemy least expects it.”

 

Captain Kathryn Brown, the 15th Airlift Squadron’s acting aircraft commander, planned and executed this off-station training mission.   

 

“This was an exciting mission.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to participate in something that could deliver a huge strategic impact to INDOPACOM,” she stated.  “My goal in planning this mission was to improve my ability to lead as an aircraft commander and learn about C-17 global planning and employment.  The chance to connect with DARPA and benefit the entire DoD was definitely special.”