One would think that the number of deadly injuries caused by roadside IEDs could be substantially reduced by using flail tanks to sweep Afghan roads before sending any military vehicles down them, let alone sending foot soldiers in harm’s way. A flail may not detonate every IED, but I would expect it to set off a substantial number of them, not to mention destroying trip-wires that might otherwise be overlooked. Nothing is ever going to eliminate every kind of IED, but using up-to-date versions of the flail tank seems to make very good sense.
The latest advancement in the development of flail technology is the remote controlled flail. The M160 remote controlled flail robot is being used by Army personnel in Afghanistan to clear roads of IEDs without endangering the lives of American soldiers. The manufacturer also produces a larger version of the five-ton M160, called the MV-10, which can detonate anti-tank mines. Using either version of the remote controlled flail makes far more sense than earlier versions of this device, which required a driver to maneuver the flail down mine strewn roads. Wonder why the Army didn’t think of it sooner!
Of equal importance, more and more of the most dangerous tasks that used to be done by foot soldiers are now being done by remote controlled robots on land and in the air. One can only wonder how long it will be before a robot takes the place of the GI on the most deadly missions against hostile forces. There are already smaller tank-like robots mounted with M-60 machine guns that look like they could do a lot of damage to an enemy.
New armament development should be making our troops on the ground safer, and it is possible to envision the day when remote control weapons will dominate the battlefield of the future. Troops on the ground, however, will still be needed once the robots have done their job. One cannot help but wonder, nonetheless, why it took so long for the Army to look back in its own history to find the flail tank from World War II. When first used in North Africa, the flail tank produced so much noise and dust, combined with its terrifying appearance that it caused several German units of Rommel’s Africa Corps to surrender! It’s not difficult to imagine a modern flail having the same effect on Taliban fighters, if battle-hardened German troops surrendered at the mere sight of a flail tank pounding toward them.