Friday, January 17, 2014


Tests will hopefully determine by the end of February whether the Black Knight Transformer could be implented into the U.S. military in the futureThere is nothing new about mines—which is what we used to call IEDs before replacing that perfectly adequate one syllable word with Improvised Explosive Device. They were first used in the thirteenth century by the Chinese when fighting the Mongols. 

In more recent times, IEDs have become just about the insurgent’s favorite weapon. In fact, I encountered them first-hand in Northern Ireland in the Seventies where the culvert mine became so popular that some British Army outposts had to be supplied by helicopter—a truly remarkable sight in what was supposed to be an advanced Western democracy. Driving along a road that may well blow you to pieces is an interesting experience. Short of a physical search on foot, culvert bombs placed under paved roads are quick to place and virtually undetectable.

Most culverts, by the way, are there for drainage, though some are used for sewage, gas or power. Yes, they can be blocked—which leads to other problems—but insurgents can, and do, unblock them, insert IED’s, and then re-block them (which makes the concealed IED extremely hard to detect).

Despite this, the U.S. Army has remained remarkably road bound—and fundamentally still is—in the face of overwhelming evidence that a change in that doctrine is long overdue. And, by the way, when I say “road-bound” I mean just that, even though maneuvering off-road is entirely practicable in all weathers and over most terrain if your vehicle is tracked (a subject I’ll write about some other time).

True, IEDs can still be used off-road, but many more are needed if a kill is to be likely—which increases the likelihood of the IED layers being detected. Better still, if you drive cross-country, you gain the crucial advantage of being unpredictable—which makes you much harder to hit and vastly more dangerous.

An additional tactic is to get off the ground altogether--which is where Advanced Tactics’s  Black Knight Transformer (see photo) comes in. Equipped with eight fold-away rotors, it can be driven on the ground like a truck—or fly like a helicopter—and be remotely controlled.

From that excellent site

When the AT Black Knight Transformer is operational, it will be a streamlined aircraft with turbo diesel engines capable of handling 1,000 lb (453 kg) or five passengers with a 250 nautical mile (463 km) range at 130 knots (241 km/h). On the ground, it will be able to haul 1,600 lb (726 kg) or eight passengers and manage 70 mph (over 110 km/h).

But aren’t there such things as aerial mines?

Yes, there are—but they are much harder to make, expensive, and not yet widely available. Beyond that, it is worthwhile remembering that reassuring combat aviator’s aphorism? “Big sky. Little bullet.”  

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