The Military Value of Civilian Infrastructure.

Some of the worlds most impressive infrastructure has been borne out of military necessity. China has the most expensive high speed rail system the world has ever seen, hauling millions of commuters around the country everyday. There is also a different purpose to China’s high speed rail network most people know little about. China is such a vast country, why has China invested billion of dollars expanding its already mind boggling rail system?

People’s Liberation Army (PLA)

The PLA plans to move hundreds of thousands of troops around China’s huge territory. The PLA is the largest ground army in the world. It’s also responsible for defending the longest land border in the world outside of Russia, encompassing 14 countries.  China is the only country in the world to have gone to war with virtually all of its neighbours, and trust me these were wars borne more out of neccessity than anything else.

China launches the world’s fasted train, with a speed of 600km/h
China has the most extensive high speed rail systems.

Now you’ve gotta pity the Chinese. This ancient superpower was raped by the Europeans in the Opiom War. They were raped by the Japanese in World War II. Also 300,000 Chinese soldiers lost their lives defending North Korea against the United States in the Korean. Another 30,000 Chinese soldiers once again lost their lives at the hand of the Americans in Vietnam. In its brief border war with the Soviet Union,  Krushchev was prepared to use nuclear. Millions of Chinese were spared from certain death when Nixon assured Krushshev that a Soviet nuclear attack on China will draw certain nuclear retaliatory strikes by the United States against the Soviet Union.
Then we have India, China’s bitter rival and a potential suoerpower with whom it has gone to war with. Lets not forget the unstable Hermit Kingdom -North Korea, the most isolated country in the world with an unstable leader who wants to do nothing but eat Swiss cheese all day with his bellicose rhetorics and threats of anihilating the greatest military power the world has ever seen with nuclear weapons.

Giving these volatility along its border it is no surprise that China wants its armed forces to have the ability to respond to a myriad of crises at any given time. The high speed train was partly borne out of this neccessity. 

In a hypothetical war scenario with the United States, China is pragmatic enough to realise it cannot guarantee air superiority against the United States, a country whose Navy has the world’s second largest air force.  Rather than try to match U.S air power, China’s formidable Second Artillery Corp would rush its cruise missiles and artillery systems along the high speed rail lines towards the coast.

China’s high speed rail system affords China the ability to move thousands of troops and equipment to any part of China’s provinces. This is domestic military power projection at its finest.

A well equipped army division can be moved from one Chinese province to another 700 miles away in just about 5 hours.

Nazi  Germany.

Eurofighter on the Autobahn.
Eurofighter on the Autobahn.

Shortly before Word War II Germany built the most extensive national highway system in the world -the Autobahn. As the Allied forces would soon discover, the autobahn gave Germany a decided military advantage in their ability to supply troops at the front from the rear. 

The best roads in Europe are found in Germany.
The best roads in Europe are found in Germany.

Anybody who knows anything about military strategy knows that a major factor in long-term success in a military campaign is the ability to establish and maintain lines of supply to forces engaged in combat. You can have all the guns and artillery pieces you want, but without food, ammunition and fuel, even the most hardened of troops cease to be an effective combat unit.

America’s Interstate.

After the World War II the United States built the best infrastructure the world has ever seen.  There are over 600,000 bridges and 4.1 million kilometres of roads in the United States. At the heart of this infrastructure is the National Interstate Highway System, commisomed by President Dwight  D Eisenhower five years after the defeat of Nazi Germany and the surrender of Imperial Japan.

The greatest public works project in the history of the world. In the span of just forty years the United States built 4.07 million kilometres of roadways.

Traffic makes its way along Interstate 80 on July 1, 2015 in Berkeley, California.
Some of the widest roads anywhere in the world can be found in the United States.
An Interstate Highway in Texas.
An F-18 takes off from a highway.
Two F-18 hornets taxi to take off from a highway.

One prominent feature of American roads are its widths. American roads are the widest anywhere in the world. A typical two lane interstate is required to have two or three lanes that are a minimum of 12 feet wide.  The outside shoulder should be a mimimum of 10 feet and the inside shoulder a mimimum of 4 feet, so we are looking at 38 feet of roadway here. STUNNING !! Just STUNNING !!.

But this larger than life size roads in the United States are by design and neccessity. In the midst of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, the United States was certain war between the Soviet Union was innevitable. It was a matter of “When” not ” If” war breaks out between the largest air and sea power the world has ever seen -the United States, and the biggest land power the world has ever known – the Soviet Union. 

In the face of this brinkmanship U.S President Dwight D Eisenhower conceived and launched the National System of Interstate and Defence Highways, the only one if its kind in the world.  A network of roads were military aircrafts can land in times of emergency. Eisenhower wanted this system for some key strategic reasons : 

  • A way of evacuating cities on a massive scale if the United States was attacked by nuclear bombs. 

  • Provide a rapid means of transporting offensive and defensive forces such as reserve forces. These  bridges were built far heavier than the norm, some weigh as much as 60 tons, allowing amoured divisions to deploy their compliments of M1 Abram Tanks and MRAPS. On an Interstate bridge a tank could run at full speed for a long time.

Mobile Airfields.

It is possible for the enemy to wipe out all of America’s airfields, but 4 million kilometres of roads and highways allows the U.S to land planes as heavy as the Hercules C-130 on a highway.

Can Nigeria take a leaf from this?

Nigeria has the largest and most extensive road networks in sub sahara Africa outside South Africa. It has the most bridges in the region and boasts the longest bridge in Afria- the 13 kilometre 3rd Mainland Bridge, that connects mainland Lagos to the Islands.

Port Hacourt mono rail, Rivers State Nigeria.
Port Hacourt mono rail, Rivers State Nigeria.
Calabar mono-rail, Cross Rivers State Nigeria.
Calabar mono-rail, Cross Rivers State Nigeria.
Lekki Ikoyi bridge, Lagos. Strategic assets such as bridges, drainage channels and roads are now specifically insured against natural disasters and terrorist attacks.
The longest bridge in Africa and one of the longest bridges in the world, the 13 kilometre long 3rd Mainland Bridge in Lagos.

Just recently Nigeria’s president Muhammady Buhari gave an executive directive that all the 36 State capitals should be connected with rails. To finance this project the president submitted a loan request of $5.5 billion to the Senate. A rail system connecting Kano — Kaduna and Lagos-Ibadan is already on going.  In the Niger Delta Port Hacourt and Calabar already have elevated monorail systems in operation.

Nigeria can compensate for its refusal to modernise its military on a fast enough pace by investing heavily in civilian  infrastructure that can be out to good use in times of war. Merchant ships, roads, bridges, railways etc . The military values of these infrastructure cannot be over emphasized.


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