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BAE Systems Black Knight   (Source: Defense Update)
BAE Systems' Black Knight is a formidable weapon for the battlefield

In early October, DailyTech brought you the story of Foster-Miller's MAARS (Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System). The MAARS followed in the footsteps of previous battlefield robots like the REDOWL PakBot and the SUGV Early.

The 300-pound MAARS, on the other hand, brought serious firepower and technology to the table. The MAARS features a M240B Medium Machine Gun and uses GPS tracking to reduce the risk of friendly fire.

While the MAARS is an impressive piece of machinery, BAE Systems is taking battlefield robots to the next level with its Black Knight. The Black Knight is a semi-autonomous 9.5 ton tank based on the Bradley fighting vehicle.

The Black Knight can be controlled from the traditional commander's station or by remote control via the Dismounted Control Device (DCD). Due to its advanced programming, the Black Knight can also autonomously plan routes and avoid obstacles without user intervention.

When it comes to the Black Knights armament, human intervention is required to fire rounds (thankfully). Considering that the Black Knight is armed with a 30mm gun and a coaxial machine gun, it's good to know that this tank won't be rolling around firing at anything that moves.

BAE Systems detailed how admirably the Black Knight performed during a demonstration in early 2007.

"While the Bradley Technology Demonstrator was engaging an enemy target from cover in a support by fire position, the Black Knight was able to autonomously move to a covered position and observe the target, using its sensor package to provide battle damage assessment data back to the Bradley," explained BAE Systems.

"If the enemy target needed to be re-engaged, the Black Knight could effectively neutralize the target, but the command to fire would always be made by a remote Soldier and only after the data necessary to make positive identification is received."

It may be years before such potent machinery is available for use on actual battlefields, however.

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RE: Playing with fire
By rcc on 11/8/2007 1:36:01 PM , Rating: 3
I agree.

What concerns me though, is that by taking the direct impact (loss of life) out of war, particularly if it's only on one side, the people and leaders become insulated from the reality that is war. It's a mixed blessing, and one that I'm sure has been argued from the advent of the first ranged weapons.

I don't want any more of our boys to get killed than is necessary. However, I'd also hate to see someone in control of a remote controlled platoon wipe out a village because he could, and because it had no real impact on him or his people.

RE: Playing with fire
By masher2 on 11/8/2007 2:06:42 PM , Rating: 3
But historically, the "realities of war" have never stopped leaders from engaging in them. In fact, I would argue this new style of war may make leaders even less likely to engage in them.

When only robots are destroyed, it means the impact is felt economically, rather than in human life. Starting a war therefore means a hit on your own personal pocketbook, rather than the death of someone else's sons and daughters.

RE: Playing with fire
By TomZ on 11/8/2007 2:48:36 PM , Rating: 2
But the problem with that idea is that the money doesn't come out of the decision maker's pocketbook. And it is clear that politicians in general have very few qualms or reservations about spending taxpayer dollars.

In fact, I would argue that the notion of restraining spending on the part of the federal government has completely gone out the window. I can't even think of the last time that I heard some new spending proposal put down simply because it costs too much. Such proposals only seem to get stopped based on some other principle, e.g., not wanting to spread government-funded health insurance into the middle class.

RE: Playing with fire
By masher2 on 11/8/2007 2:53:53 PM , Rating: 1
> "But the problem with that idea is that the money doesn't come out of the decision maker's pocketbook"

For a small war, no. For a large-scale conflict, it does, if that person has any investments or financial holdings at all. More importantly, it comes out of the pockets of those who finance and contribute to political campaigns. Take a look at Iraq, for instance. I seriously believe there's been more complaint about the cost of the war, rather the number of US troops actually killed there.

RE: Playing with fire
By TomZ on 11/8/2007 3:04:45 PM , Rating: 2
Well, you might be right, but I seriously doubt that, for example, Bush has been personally affected one bit by the Iraq war.

And I'm not sure I agree on the cost vs. casualties point either. I'm personally outraged by the cost of the Iraq war both in human terms and dollar terms, and I think a lot of other people are too.

RE: Playing with fire
By Darkskypoet on 11/8/07, Rating: -1
RE: Playing with fire
By James Holden on 11/8/07, Rating: -1
RE: Playing with fire
By TomZ on 11/8/2007 4:05:43 PM , Rating: 2
The U.S. gets its oil from Canada, not Iraq.

That's not true. The US gets oil from Canada, yes, but it also gets a lot from Iraq as well as a number of other countries in the Middle East:

RE: Playing with fire
By James Holden on 11/8/07, Rating: 0
RE: Playing with fire
By TomZ on 11/8/2007 7:54:03 PM , Rating: 2
Didn't you write an article about rising oil prices due to refinery constraints?

If you're replying to my post, then I would answer "no." I haven't written any articles for DT.

RE: Playing with fire
By Ringold on 11/8/2007 3:39:27 PM , Rating: 2
You probably can't substantiate hardly of any of that, but feel free to try.

RE: Playing with fire
By rcc on 11/8/2007 6:13:06 PM , Rating: 2
You know how it goes, it's far more fun to fling rumors and unsubstantiated claims that to actually think about what you're saying.

RE: Playing with fire
By Chillin1248 on 11/9/2007 6:42:51 AM , Rating: 2
Hey Michael,

I will have to disagree with you on this one, that robots will make war be felt even harder on the economy.

I am currently in the Israeli Defense Forces, and it has really opened up my eyes to all the little details that a civilian would never notice.

For one, Robots would cost less to mantain than humans. For humans you need food, transportation, housing, water, and a constant salary for starters. Every second I am in the army costs them a good amount of money. Hell I remember hearing that training an Israeli pilot costs around $1-$4 million dollars each.

Let me give you an example; a 8km march:

- ~180 soldiers on salary
- Full equipment for each (radios, sleeping bags, etc.)
- Food supplies (which also have to be delivered)
- Water supplies ('')
- Field intelligence
- Support vehicles
- etc.

Now I also did some time in a Israeli tank storage facility and I saw how little manpower it required to service hundreds of armored vehicles.

So I have to disagree that having Remote Armored Vehicles will be more expensive than fielding an equivalant force of ground troops.


RE: Playing with fire
By masher2 on 11/9/2007 10:15:58 AM , Rating: 2
> "I will have to disagree with you on this one, that robots will make war be felt even harder on the economy."

That's not quite what I'm saying. My point was that these advances will shift the burden from being primarily a human-loss issue to one that's almost entirely economic.

> "For one, Robots would cost less to mantain than humans"

True. But let's examine that issue closer. Let's say you have $300M/year to spend on a unit of ground trips. You decide to replace it with a robotic version that is equally effective, but costs only $100M. You save $200M.

But assuming you're not fighting an assymetric war, your enemy has roughly the same technology you do. So he does the same, replacing his troops with robots. And (since he wants an advantage over you...after all, the point of war is to win) he spends the money HE saves on MORE robots.

Where does that leave you? You're forced to spend your $200M savings on more robots also, leaving you with an equal economic burden to your old human troops-- and stil evenly matched with your opponent, even though technically your forces are now 3X as "powerful". So the only thing that's changed is that now a war will hit you ONLY in your pocketbook, instead of both there and in human costs.

But wait! The issue is still more complex. When you spend $4M training a human pilot, you know that investment is eventually going to vanish. Even if that human isn't killed in combat, he'll eventually retire, quit, etc. Humans are very, very expensive to maintain. But robots are not-- invest in a robot force and, barring minor maintenance costs, that investment *lasts*.

So over time, what happens? Your $300M/year military budget gives you a military force that GROWS each year. You continually get more and more powerful. So do your enemies, so this does't affect military balance, but it does affect economic cost. It means a war doesn't just cost your current forces. It costs you everything you've spent since your LAST war. It depletes you of all that hardware you've bought for years and years.

So even if you win this particular war, you've still stripped yourself bare for all your other enemies, and now have to not train another $300M in troops, but buy $300M times "x" years worth of new robots...a much more expensive proposition.

"I want people to see my movies in the best formats possible. For [Paramount] to deny people who have Blu-ray sucks!" -- Movie Director Michael Bay

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