Artillery: Marine Geeks Kill Compasses


June 7, 2011:  U.S. Marine Corps artillerymen have developed a solution to a growing problem; compasses confused by the growing amount of metal (like tanks and other vehicles) found in the vicinity of the compasses used to calculate where to point the guns. Some marines realized that they could do away with the compasses by using a mathematical technique called trilateration. If you can measure the distance between two known points, you can accurately (enough for artillery fire) determine the coordinates of an unknown location (the target). The new USMC method, when tested, produced more accurate target coordinates than older methods using a compass (that was not being messed with by large, nearby chunks of metal). GPS, laser rangefinders and more accurate maps make precise trilateration possible.

Artillerymen have long been known as the geekiest of combat troops. Centuries ago, the most accomplished gunners were those who knew the most about chemistry (gunners used to mix their own) and math (to calculate how to aim the gun). Even with all the new gadgets artillerymen have received in the past century, there were always opportunities for gunners to geek out and develop improvements.