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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 maven81 on 11/8/2007 2:22:18 PM , Rating: 2
"By the time of WWI/2, civilians were largely insulated from the direct effects of war."

Are you serious?!!!!

In WWII villages were burned to the ground, civilians rounded up and executed, cities blockaded, and civilians starved to death, civilians kidnapped and brought to Germany to work for the enemy, used as human shields, and tortured... they were "fair game" unless of course you mean US civilians... otherwise you don't have a leg to stand on.

similar things have happened in more recent wars such as vietnam, afghanistan, and chechnya, not to mention iraq. Basically any time there was an invasion, because these wars all took place in someone's back yard, not in a vacuum. (and I'm talking about both sides here... sometimes the civilians are even more guilty of atrocities then the invading army).

Unless robots aquire some serious AI (which would be dangerous given a military robot), they could never replace troops on the ground.

Actually there's an old sci-fi story about what you describe... where humans use only robots to fight wars... and then at the end of the battle a god comes down from the sky and sends all the robots to heaven heh... I always thought it was pretty amusing (I don't believe in god anyway).

RE: Playing with fire
By masher2 on 11/8/2007 2:49:51 PM , Rating: 2
> "Are you serious?!!!!"

Quite serious. Yes, war crimes were committed in WW2 and later wars. The critical point is that these were considered crimes and moral outrages, and were generally avoided.

In earlier eras, the concept of "war crimes" didn't even exist. If an enemy force occupied a village, it would automatically be looted then burned, and its occupants all killed or pressed into slavery. Such an act wouldn't even raise fact, not doing so would have been unusual enough to cause comment.

When the Japanese occupied Manila or the German's Warsaw, they didn't systematically massacre the entire population and stack their skulls in pyramids. Rape and murder weren't unknown...but they were frowned on officially at least, not encouraged. The vast majority of civilians in Europe and Asia SURVIVED WW2, despite the ease with which one or more of the warring powers could have decimated them. Some were killed...but it was a tiny fraction of the total populace.

Take a look at the Mongol's invasion of Central Asia (the entire population of over one million civilians killed at the city of Urgench alone) or their destruction of the Ruthenian states. Those acts weren't "war crimes". They were standard operating procedure. The powers involved didn't try to hide or conceal those acts...they reveled in them, and used them to intimidate their enemies.

Such wide-scale exploitation of civilians wasn't simply widespread in that era, it was necessary. It was the only way your troops got paid. There were no standing armies financed by state budgets. Rape was so commonplace it changed the genetic makeup of entire nations-- in a few generations, the Mongols changed from European features to Oriental, due to the number of wives and concubines taken from their Asian campains, and the darker hair and skin of European stock in Spain, Portugal and Italy resulted from the Moorish invasions.

As for the modern-day idea of punishment for war crimes after a conflict was over? Laughable! Anyone who doesn't realize how civilized modern warfare has become knows nothing about ancient warfare.

RE: Playing with fire
By maven81 on 11/8/2007 2:57:53 PM , Rating: 1
You clearly know nothing about the eastern front for starters. The german army did in fact loot entire villages and burn them to the ground. That really was standard operating procedure. They really would take an entire village, lock it into huge barn, and light it on fire. There's a movie out there that details this rather well, based on recollections of people who saw this called "come and see". They really did round up all the women and rape them. Just because no one talks about this stuff anymore, doesn't mean it didn't happen.
Basically human behavior reached an absolute low during that time, and I can't fathom how anyone can deny that.

RE: Playing with fire
By masher2 on 11/8/2007 3:26:02 PM , Rating: 3
> "You clearly know nothing about the eastern front for starters"

Based on your comments, I know far more about it than you. In fact, my wife's grandfather died fighting on the Eastern Front, and her grandmother lived in a Soviet town occupied by the Germans for several years.

Notice the use of the word "occupied". Almost none of the civilian population was killed. In fact, far more were killed after the Soviets retook the area, by their own people for "collaboration" with the enemy.

You're still missing the point here. Plenty of atrocities occurred in WW2-- rape, murder, destruction of entire vilages, even. But they were in no, way, or form "standard operating procedure". A simple look at population statistics proves it. Som 20 million European civilians died in WW2...but 600+ million survived. They were *not* killed, though they were in close proximity to enemy forces that could have easily done so had they wished. In earlier conflicts, even though fought with much less destructive weaponry, the vast majority of the civilian populace would have died.

Anyone who thinks human behavior "reached a low" in WW2 honestly knows nothing about the barbaric history of warfare. Seriously, read up a little on any historical conflict prior to the Renaissance era. You'll see instantly how dramatically the rules have changed.

RE: Playing with fire
By rcc on 11/8/2007 6:54:26 PM , Rating: 2
Brings to mind several words or terms that are thrown around casually these days without thinking where they came from.

Decimate. And no, you can't decimate a town to the last man. It means to kill every 10th person. A common practice for the Roman army in towns that caused problems.

Caesarian. We use it as a surgical, semi happy term, and a life saving technique. The original reference is to the Roman (again) practice of slicing open a pregnant woman's womb and letting baby out a bit early. My pitiful humor aside it's not what we would consider a "civilized" behavior.

We'll save Ring Around the Rosey, and Mary, Mary Quite Contrary for another time.

So, yes, warfare and life in general is far more civilized now than at any point in history. Particularly when you look at what could be done with the far more destructive weapons available now and in the last century.

Which isn't, as Masher2 mentioned, to say that atrocities don't happen, but just the fact that we view them as atrocities and use that term proves that society in general is far more sensitized to them.
Further, if you look at the semimodern atrocities mentioned, in all cases the people guilty of the atrocity were in a position of considering the victims as less human then themselves.

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