Old Military Planes Could Drop 900,000 Tree-Bombs a Day


Image: a C-130 Hercules dropping something other than tree-bombs. Suggestsoft

I've always felt that planting trees was simply too much of a non-violent affair. Digging holes, lowering in saplings, filling them with soil -- yawn. Where's the action, the excitement, the military-grade aircraft? It's also time consuming. Granted, I don't have nearly the skills this guy does, but the last time I went out planting trees, the best I could do was one every few minutes. Thankfully, somebody figured know how to plant trees right: By enlisting a fleet of a retrofitted C-130 military transport planes to literally aerial bomb forests with new trees, we could plant 900,000 of them in a single day.

Planes once used to drop landmines retrofitted to drop tree-mines
See, it turns out that there are all these military planes just idling in hangars across the world -- they were designed to drop landmines en masse in enemy territory, but now they're just collecting rust. There are some 2,500 of these planes in 70 different countries, and it turns out they make for ideal tree-bombers.

The Guardian explains:

Equipment installed in the huge C-130 transport aircraft used by the military for laying carpets of landmines across combat zones has been adapted to deposit the trees in remote areas including parts of Scotland.

An idea, originally from a former RAF pilot, Jack Walters, of Bridgnorth, Shropshire, has been developed by the US manufacturer Lockheed Martin Aerospace so that 900,000 young trees can be planted in a day.

Walters' idea was published in a scientific paper nearly 36 years ago, but was deemed technologically infeasible at the time. Lockheed then determined the plan could be an ideal way to breathe new life into outmoded military machines. Peter Simmons, a company rep, is enthused about the idea.

"The possibilities are amazing," he gushed to the Guardian. "We can fly at 1,000ft at 130 knots planting more than 3,000 cones a minute in a pattern across the landscape - just as we did with landmines, but in this case each cone contains a sapling. That's 125,000 trees for each sortie and 900,000 trees in a day."

Lockheed claims that deployment of this technology will allow the planting of 1 billion trees a year, or enough to reforest -- or simply forest -- 3,000 square miles. They plan on marketing the plane to companies seeking to offset their carbon footprints.

How Tree-Bombing Works
First, you have to pick the proper environment: Typically, an area that has experienced deforestation, and was previously home to forests. With minor adjustments, however, Lockheed says that traditionally unforested areas can be successfully planted with shrub versions of the tree bombs. Shrub-bombs.

Second, you outfit a landmine carpet bomber to drop tree-bombs instead. Finally, you have the tree-bomb itself. Here's how they work:

The tree cones are pointed and designed to bury themselves in the ground at the same depth as if they had been planted by hand. They contain fertilizer and a material that soaks up surrounding moisture, watering the roots of the tree. The containers are metal but rot immediately so the tree can put its roots into the soil.
And thus you have a suitably testosterone-fueled, 21st century-appropriate method of planting trees.

UPDATE: It should be pointed out, as some commenters have below, that the article this post references was published in 1999 -- when the retrofitting plan was first launched as a pilot program. Since then, the wider plan outlined has not been executed, and has yet to see widespread success. However, the idea remains a good one, and perhaps with even better technology, and newly minted international incentives for greater reforestation, Tree-bombing will get the trial it deserves ...

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