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Background: It's 2020 and the US military needs to invade an alien planet for freedom purposes. Unfortunately, the only way to get there is through a Stargate-esqe, non-moveable wormhole located at some semi-secret military base within the continental USA. It's circular, big enough for standard shipping containers to go through, and maybe a train that's holding said shipping containers but not much more.

Questions:

  • What elements of a modern military invasion would not fit through the described portal and which absence would cause the biggest headache for the military? (eg, no large aircraft, tanks, or ships)
  • Are there any real-world historical examples of a very large military force invading through a "small opening" logistically speaking? (Through a single tunnel, along a single rail line, etc.)
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  • $\begingroup$ A modern example of an army invading through a single portal may be Russo-Georgian war of 2008. There are much more numerous examples of an army moving through a single road or a bridge. However, the portal is never the only way of modern military movement, other aspects like air support are always present. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Mar 13 '20 at 18:19
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    $\begingroup$ As the enemy general, terminating that lifeline seems the easiest way to shut down the invasion and capture thousands of new young slaves once their ammunition and fuel run out. Considering that this is my home turf, and I have an entire world of resources, minions, and nefarious surprises, I'm confident that I can make that happen at a time of my choosing. Goodness, all my armor and artillery and air power and rockets against unsupported infantry guarding the portal? What a good day this will be for my regime. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Mar 13 '20 at 18:25
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    $\begingroup$ You're right about the ships, but tanks however are still an option. Also I'm pretty sure we'd figure out pretty quickly how to take the wings of a jet and shove it through, just to reassemble on the other side. $\endgroup$
    – Plutian
    Mar 13 '20 at 18:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Plutian Most aircraft are already designed that way. In at least 3 different aircraft builders (companies) that I have personally been to will build the wing and fuselage in parallel and then mate one to another fairly late in the process. Remove a cowling, undo four large titanium bolts and unhook fuel lines and you are pretty much there. The whole process takes about a day. $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Mar 13 '20 at 20:15
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    $\begingroup$ The time-frame is important to this question, as other answers have pointed out. If the aliens already control their side of the portal and you are assaulting the portal from the get-go, you are expressly limited to what can fit through it in one piece. If/when you have control over the aliens' side of the portal, you can start shipping bigger things in pieces. In the best-case scenario, you have plenty of time to construct a full military base, complete with marshalling yard, on the aliens' side before they start fighting back. $\endgroup$
    – Lawton
    Mar 14 '20 at 0:21
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If the invasion is planned in advance, the question would be flipped around: generals would ask "how can we get everything we need through the portal?".

The portals used in the Stargate TV series are 6.7m in diameter, although I think that includes the ring itself so perhaps 6m of clearance. This is the 'gauge' of the portal, and the good news is that it's both taller and wider than even the largest widespread loading gauges for freight rail in the United States. A huge proportion of the materiel used by a modern military is already designed to be transported by rail, and you would be surprised what sort of things you can fit through it.

The army logistics corps will spend whatever time and money it takes to ensure that everything an army might need will fit through that gauge. Taking wings of planes is a relatively trivial example (for an F-35 you might only need to remove one wing), but there are relatively few single pieces of army or air force materiel that couldn't be disassembled to fit and reassembled on the other side. Naval materiel is another matter entirely as ships are welded together; establishing a naval force would require the design of 'build-on-site' capital ships (or more realistically quickly establishing a shipyard.

I think there's no question that the logistics corps would decide to build a single-track railway through the portal, with enormous marshalling yards on both sides: the portal is a tremendous bottleneck which will have to be utilised all the time. But the amount of materiel you can get down a single rail line is pretty impressive.

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    $\begingroup$ Here in Kansas is the factory that produces the Fuselage of the Boeing 737 Max jet. They are sent to Washington via Rail. You see trains sometimes that are Aircraft body after aircraft body. It can be amazing to watch (unless you are waiting for the train to pass to get where you are going. $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Mar 13 '20 at 19:08
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    $\begingroup$ Pretty sure a Pershing theater ballistic missile on its transporter, as well as the transporter itself, will go through a Stargate. An Abrams tank surely will. An F-14 with wings folded (as for onboard handling on a carrier) just about will. Air superiority shouldn't be a big problem if there's pavement on the other side of the portal. $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Mar 13 '20 at 19:10
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This reminds me of an old story (probably apocryphal): The main thrusters on the Space Shuttle were built and shipped to the launch site by rail. That was actually part of the design specification. Well, railroad gauges were originally based on existing roads. Many roads were simply built over the wheel ruts from old horse drawn wagons. The horses were usually hitched side by side. So when you get down to it, the size of the most advanced vehicle on earth had at least one of its design requirements based on a horse's butt.

How does this effect you? You need to build 2 marshaling yards on each side of the portal. First things through the portal should be some defensive personnel and some heavy duty weaponry. Start smallish, establish a perimeter, and do your best to camouflage what you are doing. Then bring through some small bulldozers, small earthmoving equipment, and so on to build up the yard. Get some rail laid through the portal, and make sure to build the iris barrier (ala Stargate SG1) so that no matter what happens you can close it off if things go wrong.

Once you have the area on the other side established with rail and equipment for you to unload with, you can really go to town. I would guess that two or three rail cars at a time could move an awful lot in a short time. Cargo containers can be used for double duty as well. One intermodal cargo container can carry a bunch of stuff and then double as a barracks or even a part of a substantial wall when emptied.

Now, there are a great many aircraft that should be able to get through afterwords. The Fuselage of a 737 can ravel by rail, and the wing and empanage came be sent on another. I have seen repair crews on some smaller aircraft be able to mate the wing to the fuselage in about a day (a lot of wings are just one piece). Jet engines are surprisingly small. Even very large ones are not any larger than a Volkswagen bug. They look bigger but that's just the cowling. That's just an idea of how big you can go. For something like this, though, I would suggest smaller aircraft, like maybe an AT-6 light attack craft as a place to start. They kinda look old fashioned but they are extremely capable aircraft to get started with and they are fairly small. They can also take off and land on a fairly short, primitive airfield.

While you bring through the basics start building things to be as defensible as possible. Concrete barriers can come through and be quickly stacked. Defense is absolutely critical, because if the the enemy closes the portal, you are absolutely done.

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  • $\begingroup$ Why use AT-6s when you can just take the rotors off an apache? Once you take the rotor disk off a helicopter pretty much any helicopter will fit through the portal easily, and the rotors are designed for relatively easy removal and replacement. $\endgroup$ Jan 25 at 13:51
  • $\begingroup$ No reason why you couldn't. I picke the AT-6 because I like them and I used to work at Beechcraft where they built them, so Iknow exactly how big they are. The aircraft you bring would be more dependent on the mission. An AT 6 can fly faster, farther, and higher. the Apache would be superior against ground forces. . $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Jan 25 at 17:18
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Consider the dimensions of the cargo hold of the C-5 Galaxy, which is 4.1m high by 5.8m wide. This is of course slightly larger than an ISO container, but it is smaller than the Stargate from the series.

If it is possible to put a railway line through the gate which supports high-speed trains, with a freight yard at the other end, it should be possible to deploy just about any equipment in a Heavy Brigade Combat Team, in large numbers and with logistics support.

Helicopters will fit through, too, possibly with dismantled rotors. Ships and fixed-wing aircraft are a problem.

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    $\begingroup$ fixed wing aircraft are less of a problem than you may think. I work in an aircraft repair facility. It takes maybe a day with a dedicated work crew to remove the wing section from a business aircraft. Once the wing is removed, it will go through sideways and the fuselage will fit easily on a rail car. Modern aircraft are surprisingly modular. The business of re-mating the wing to the aircraft wouldn't be much more difficult that re-tuning the dismantled rotors of a helicopter. those are a finicky business. $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Oct 7 '20 at 15:22
  • $\begingroup$ @PaulTIKI Seems like the best option is to start with naval helicopters with folding rotors? Something like a SH-60 Seahawk? $\endgroup$ Jan 25 at 13:56
  • $\begingroup$ Certainly possible. What you would want to compare is how many man hours it takes to get the aircraft operational once it comes through the portal, how many man hours for maintenance you need between sorties, and of course, what the mission is. Also, just making the point that fixed wing aircraft shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Jan 25 at 17:22
  • $\begingroup$ @PaulTIKI So you'd want something like naval helicopters at the start for immediate deployment, then phase over to a traditional aircraft and helicopters once you have a beach head established with facilities, time and space to prep them. $\endgroup$ Jan 25 at 17:27
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps. Like I said, how fast can you get them operational. You may not even need them right away. It's all going to depend on the mission at hand. If you can bring across a navy helicopter and then have it liftoff right off of the rail car, fantastic. If your portal opens up at the equivalent of 12000 feet above sea level, you may want to wait to get a simple fixed wing airstrip ready, because rotary wings don't do as well at the higher altitudes. If the potential enemy is at a much lower tech level, you may want to wait a while before bringing across anything airborn. $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Jan 25 at 17:39

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