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BAe Black Knight Unmanned Combat Vehicle

SmithW6079

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This seems rather interesting, though not in production yet it could be in the future.

http://www.youtube.com/v/hRDs__6dFsE&hl=en
 

Ranger6

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Very interesting, this seems to be the first really successful application of FCS concepts and it may even work as planned. I have to say, however, that I remain a skeptic about the viability of systems that require human control -- even if it is from a remote station. After all, what happens if a truck bomb knocks out the headquarters and the Black Knight goes into safety mode? How long will it take to unlock and restore operations? Does it have renudent system controls? Can it be operated by a "real" crew if need be?

Lots of questions -- too few answers for now, at least until the technology matures somewhat!

R6
 

Anthonyp

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Heh... that thing's sitting in the bay at work. Neat little vehicle, about the size of an M113 (at least that's the easiest comparison I can make, seeing as how it's sitting next to one). Too bad it's not likely to go into production right now.

And it's BAE (all caps). ;D
 

Firefly 2

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Highly unimpressive. I seriously question the survivability of this system in a true combat zone. This seems to be another one of these " Transformation" programmes that has little practical use at this point in time.
 

Just call me Ray

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Firefly said:
Highly unimpressive. I seriously question the survivability of this system in a true combat zone. This seems to be another one of these " Transformation" programmes that has little practical use at this point in time.

If I may ask, what makes you think it's not all that survivable? Also keep in mind if nothing else it's a technology demonstrator, so it's just a stepping stone.
 

Firefly 2

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I see two very strong issues.

For one: the sensor package. It looks very fragile. I imagine they built in some redundance, but it is too vital a feature. Just seeing those things swing like that on the sides... It made me wonder if they could survive shrapnell, or .308 NATO rounds. Unless of course the sensor package is so advanced that it can see any threat at any angle, at any range and react accordingle. Which is also rather doubtfull. The technology regarding unmanned land vehicles is simply not advanced enough to guarantee this. I recall a recent DARPA challenge exploring the feasability of autonomous land vehicles. Most of the teams could not succeed in the completing the track.

Secondly:The automatic shutdown makes this ( expensive) system a sitting duck for simple RPG or grenade fire.
Unless the operating system could be slaved to a master ( manned) vehicle mimmicking it's every move I really don't see how that can be avoided or resolved.
 

SmithW6079

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Overscan: Thank you for embedding the video.

Ranger6: I believe the Black Knight is controlled by the vehicle commander in the following Bradley. I'm uncertain as to the range that it can be controlled or whether it can be controlled from a headquarters of some sort (like Predator UAVs). Anthonyp might be able to answer whether it can be crewed as he has actually seen the vehicle.

Anthonyp: Sorry for the BAE mistake, I must have been thinking of the old British Aerospace abbreviation.

Firefly and Just call me Ray: Good points about survivability. My own view is that the Black Knight would be no less vulnerable than any other buttoned down armoured vehicle, although Firefly's issue with the vulnerability of the sensors may be valid. In my opinion, Black Knight would be less survivable in an urban environment where it could be more easily ambushed.

As far as the DARPA challenge goes, I believe numerous vehicles completed the desert course in 2005. Six teams successfully completed the 96km urban course in 2007.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DARPA_Grand_Challenge

I'm not sure I'm sold on the idea of autonomous land vehicles but I have a feeling we'll be seeing many more in the future.
 

Firefly 2

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Probably, and I like the idea of basing them on an existent chassis, but between feasability and operational effectiveness lies a world of stepping stones. I'm not sure we'll see an operational Black Night within the next decade.
 

Rickshaw

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I think part of the problem is actually figuring out what such a vehicle is actually meant to do.

If it's meant to be a complete replacement for say, a scout vehicle, then it's a good stepping stone. However, if its meant to replace an APC and all its dismounts then it won't be able to do so for a considerable amount of time. An APC plus dismounts is much more versatile and can be utilised in many different ways, be it from the traditional role of infantry ("take and hold ground") through to that of armour (seize ground) to cavalry (seize ground, pursue a broken enemy) etc.

I see this very much as a demonstrator, rather than a production vehicle.

As for the vulnerability of the sensors - they are as vulnerable as any vision systems on an AFV to damage from splinters ("shrapnel" hasn't been used since WWI in most armies) and projectiles.
 

Firefly 2

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The term shrapnel is still very much in use in Dutch language, my apologies.
 

Anthonyp

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SmithW6079 said:
Ranger6: I believe the Black Knight is controlled by the vehicle commander in the following Bradley. I'm uncertain as to the range that it can be controlled or whether it can be controlled from a headquarters of some sort (like Predator UAVs). Anthonyp might be able to answer whether it can be crewed as he has actually seen the vehicle.

Anthonyp: Sorry for the BAE mistake, I must have been thinking of the old British Aerospace abbreviation.

Not a problem on the abbreviation ;D BAe looks cooler, but it's been emphasized to us that we're BAE Systems nowadays (all caps, plus the word after).

Currently, the vehicle can be controlled either from a following Bradley or by troops on the ground. Since it's only a tech demonstrator, there's been all kinds of ideas on how this (and any FCS derived UCV's) put forward on how it can be operated if and when they go into production.
 

Just call me Ray

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It's likely commanders will wait until they can show a competent degree of true autonomy until deploying them in combat. I'm sure they're thinking that having a bunch of guys follow it around to operate it is somewhat self-defeating of the whole UCGV concept.

In the meantime, like I said before, it's still an important technology demonstrator, more than just a fun toy to play with but a useful research and development tool. They might even be able to make it fully autonomous eventually.

EDIT: Interesting to note, though, that the US Army/Marines are seeking a lightweight, high-speed combat vehicle to fit inside V-22s and similarly sized helos, and General Dynamic's entry apparently has a fully-autonomous option:

http://www.gdrs.com/programs/program.asp?UniqueID=24

More info on high-speed light combat vehicles here:

http://blog.wired.com/defense/2008/05/100-mph-battle.html
 

Rickshaw

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Firefly said:
The term shrapnel is still very much in use in Dutch language, my apologies.

Thats OK. It is also in English, despite the fact, as I've pointed out, the round hasn't been used since WWI for most armies. "Shrapnel" refers to a particular artillery round (usually containing standard or oversize musket balls which explodes after a set period after leaving the cannon muzzle). Nowadays its used to describe what are properly known as "splinters".
 

Firefly 2

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Splinters it is, then. Still, I fear for the sensor package when these vehicles take fire.
 
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this system has too many vulnerable bells and whistles on the exterior, as Firefly has pointed out . This not only means that its sensors are liable to be taken out , but it doesn't have too much armour at a number of spots as well.

i don't know how much a production derivative of this thing will cost , but I am sure it will cost less than an RPG-29. the economics of war continues to favour insurgents .
 

Avimimus

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Assuming they can get their hands on (or produce their own) RPG-29...
 

SmithW6079

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As I pointed out in a previous post, I agree that the sensors could be a liability. Of course as the cost of technology comes down, you could duplicate the sensors, giving you multiple backups in case of an attack.

A Black Knight would indeed be more expensive than an RPG-29, but so would a Bradley, Abrams, MRAP, etc. Soldiers aren't seen as expendable canon fodder anymore, so I'd rather see a million dollar Black Knight taken out than a Bradley full of dismounts. Even from an economic standpoint, it likely costs more to train and house the Bradley dismounts and crew as well as the vehicle itself than it would for a Black Knight.

So yes, unmanned combat vehicles will be more expensive than most insurgent weapons. I view them as an assistant to troops in the field rather than a replacement.
 

yasotay

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The Black Knight participated in the Air Assault Expeditionary Force experiment at Ft. Benning last year. It was not asked to come back. Beyond that I cannot say. I don't have any information on "Why not?"
 

ANTIcarrot

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SmithW6079 said:
As I pointed out in a previous post, I agree that the sensors could be a liability. Of course as the cost of technology comes down, you could duplicate the sensors, giving you multiple backups in case of an attack.

A Black Knight would indeed be more expensive than an RPG-29, but so would a Bradley, Abrams, MRAP, etc.

This might be a good point to mention to Global Infrared concept, as fitted to the F-35. Instead of a single camera in a turret, the fighter will have multiple fixed cameras scattered around the airframe, and software will stitch the views together into a continuous partially stereoscopic image. You might argue that you can take out four cameras easily, but what if there were twenty, or fifty cheap cameras scattered over the front alone? Some of them hidden behind movable plates of armor?

In many ways it would have better survivability in comparison to a MBT. On at least two occasions tanks were killed by RPG-7s killing the driver in lucky shots. A spare 'driver computer' (or two or three) can be placed elsewhere in hull at much lower cost and weight than the fixes for manned vehicles.

More to the point, one Black Knight & three operators can do some jobs that would require three fully loaded bradleys and crews. (Work shifts, remember? Sleep? Logistics? Any of this ring a bell with the nay sayers?) Interesting to note we've moved beyond the 'It can't be done' declarations to a more grumbling 'it wouldn't be any use anyway'. Just one more step before complete success. :)
 

piko1

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i know that the topic is very old but i have one question on what chassis is the black knight based on
Bradley or on M113
 
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I'd say the suspension uses M113 components, like the roadwheels, drive sprockets and all-rubber tracks.
 

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