Military Channel to engage audiences with “Combat Tech”

As impressive and fascinating as military technology can be, the stories that drive the innovations are often just as compelling. The interplay between history and technology is at the heart of Military Channel’s new series Combat Tech, premiering tomorrow night.

I talked with John Terp, executive producer of the show, to find out more.

“Technology genres and history genres — they’re almost always treated as two separate entities,” Terp explains. “Where technology shows are all about the whiz-bang, marveling at cool technologies, the historical shows are the story of what happened in the past. I think what we’ve done — and why we’re so excited about this — we’ve figured out a way of bringing those together in a way that better tells both the technology and history stories.”

Combat Tech will premiere three episodes for now, with an eye to continuing with more in the future. The first episode “Bombers” explores the initial development of aerial bombardment technology and some of its peak points along the way.

“The B-2 Stealth Bomber is the most-advanced, most top-secret aircraft ever devised,” Terp offers. “We certainly developed that [story] and get into the whats and whys. The B-52 might be the most perfect bomber ever created. It is the most dominant aircraft in the sky today, as it was 50 years ago. And the only way that you discover that is through the situations where it was used, whether you look at the Persian Gulf War, or if you’re looking at Vietnam — or even further back. So once you have a sense of a conflict, the challenges — all of a sudden you get this picture of technology that is really surprising and I think revelatory in a lot of respects, because the greatest technologies are not necessarily the highest-tech technologies.”

But as Terp says, it’s far more than just about the nuts and bolts. Combat Tech is deliberately positioned at the intersection of technological development and historical necessity, because their stories are consistently of the highest-stakes kind.

“The history of warfare is the greatest life-and-death conflict,” he says. “In terms of drama, the stakes are never higher than they are in warfare, both on the grand scheme of things and from the perspective of individual soldiers. What we’re telling, in many respects, are the highest-stakes technology stories — how these technologies have been applied, why they were devised; the challenges that we were facing on the battlefield that necessitated their invention. You get the full story. You get a lot of surprises. … You don’t get that with an iPad.”

Combat Tech will follow up the “Bombers” pilot with a pair of episodes exploring ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicles) and armor technologies. According to Terp, the “ROVs” episode will be of interest to anyone who’s seen The Hurt Locker.

“You know just how dangerous the job of ordnance disposal is, combating the threat of improvised explosive devices,” he says. “Navy Bomb Disposal happens to be one of the primary users of ROV technology. Robots, rather than humans, are often the ones in harm’s way. Think about that job in the World War II era through Vietnam, where everything had to be done manually — where, because you’re on the battlefield and it’s not practical to wear protection, you’re literally doing this job fully exposed in a minefield. And so suddenly a job that is very dangerous today becomes near-suicidal in the past.”

As for the future, Terp and his colleagues are hoping that Combat Tech generates enough interest that they’ll be able to tell some of the more elaborate stories they have in mind — some of which are pretty tantalizing.

“Ultimately, one of the areas that we may want to get into is the technology of specific battles and conflicts,” he suggests. “Look at something like D-Day, where you have on one hand, the Nazis have devised the greatest defensive network ever created. It reflects the highest level of technology. Then on the other hand, you have the Allies, who have amassed the largest amphibious force in the history of warfare. We have the greatest technology out at sea with battleships, and we’re going to pummel those defenses with aircraft and troop carriers. It’s a story that pits technology against technology; it pits soldiers against soldiers, and ultimately the outcome is defined by all of those elements together.”

Combat Tech premieres March 21 at 10pm ET/PT.


  1. I would like to get the video of Combat Tech ROV on March 28 Examining Robotic Warriors. If any one has any idea I would like to know.. Thanks

  2. This show was quite disappointing, with many inaccuracies in it and way too little detail  of the technology covered — “dumbed down” you could say, as are most things today, probably a fault of our incredibly rotten educational establishment. The show’s executive producer says that they didn’t want to just describe technology, but also wanted to highlight the history of its use as well (why did you name the show “Combat TECH” then, and in advertisements for the show say that the show would describe all the advancements in TECHNOLOGY?!!). Moreover, the history it does mention is all quite general and I’m sure already well known by anyone who would watch the Military Channel AND tune in to watch a show called “Combat Tech”.  It is really sad (and quite annoying to anyone with half a brain) that so many of these shows are about or describe events that have been covered as nauseum before. (The producers are actually thinking about doing an episode about D-Day technology! Really? I can think of two or three shows that have done this already!  How about something, for a change, which is actually new, unusual or unknown to the average viewer of the Military Channel. “Greatest Tank Battles,” “Nazi Collaborators” and “Secret War” come to mind as excellent shows that have been aired by the Military Channel recently, about previously uncovered events or subjects.

    This first episode of “Combat Tech” starts out by highlighting the WWI-era Jennie bi-plane as a bomber, even though the Jennie was never intended to be used as a bomber (it was designed to be a fighter) and it was never used in combat, even as a fighter.  It was so out dated by the time we entered the war, it could only be used as a trainer. I guess they just don’t want to admit the fact that a foreign country actually came up with more advanced bombers and more advanced technology than the US did (and I say this as an extremely proud American — but sometimes we can lag far behind other countries and we shouldn’t be too proud to admit it, but should rather acknowledge the fact and overcome any deficiencies). Unfortunately, this is an all too common fault found in American made programs. (“What? There are other countries beside the United States?! I did not know that!”)

    Next, the show turns to WWII, with more inaccuracies: The British did not turn to the Lancaster bomber to retaliate for the German bombing of London in 1940; the Lancaster only came out in 1942, 2 years and several different British bombers later. The B-17 was not better than the Lancaster (in bomb load or range), or even the B-24 (a very capable bomber which is not even mentioned; not pretty enough I guess). The Norden bombsight was not much better than other bombsights because it allowed the bombardier to “see the target” much better (any idiot could put better magnification on to a bombsight); it was the Norden’s mechanical computer, which by computing the bomber’s air speed, ground speed, drift, altitude, the wind, and the drag of the bomb, allowing the bombardier to correctly position the bomber to accurately drop the bombs on to the target that made the Norden bombsight such a revolution in technology. 

    Regarding the B-52, it was not its engines that were so advanced. It was its range and bomb aiming technology, its ability to use radar to see the target in all weather and at night, and its aim-computing system that was revolutionary. (The show says that a GROUND BASED radar operator was used by the B-52 to drop its bombs with excellent accuracy during the Battle of Khe Sanh. I don’t know if that is true – using a ground based radar operator. It can not be true for the B-52’s bombing of targets in North Vietnam, as those are out of range of US operated ground based radars.)

    The shows description of stealth technology is rather simplistic (deflect and/or absorb radar waves, duh!). Nothing is mentioned about how this is done — how radar absorbent materials are applied to the aircraft, how these materials absorb radar wave energy, and what effect stealth has on an enemy’s ability to see these stealth aircraft (e.g., the term Radar Cross Section (RCS) is never mentioned; especially neat would be a description of the RCS of a B-2 [the size of a bumble bee] compared to a B-52 [the size of a barn]) — but again no details are given, just general knowledge which most everyone, unless you’re a real dunce, already knows. 

    About bomb technology, it explains laser and GPS guidance only in general terms. Once again no details are given about HOW it works in practice, e.g., the pulsating of the laser designator allowing the laser-guided bombs to differentiate between several different laser points allowing more than one laser-guided bomb to be dropped simultaneously, and the use of internal navigational systems (INS) by the JDAMs, which only use GPS to correct for any drift — loss of accurate positioning —  in the INS). 

    It was in only one area of technology that I actually learned something new; it was about how F-18 pilots use their new helmet-mounted aiming and display system (which has not been around, on the F-18 at least [only the Isrealis and Russians had it], since the F-18 first came out, as is inferred by the show, but was deployed by the Navy only in the last couple of years). This, what I actually learned for the first time, was how the pilot aims and targets his weapons, and especially how his on board weapon system can identify and highlight for the pilot targets even when they are offset of the nose of the aircraft by 60 degrees — quite impressive. 

    Thus , in summary, this show has way too many mistakes in it, and does not go into any great detail when explaining the new technologies. I rate it a 2, out of 5. Too bad, it could have been so much more. 

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