How much is a klick in armed forces terms? The shortest answer is the a klick equates to one kilometer. PBS.org reports this in a glossary of terms used during the Vietnam War, and there are various other resources (with varying explanations of the beginning of the term) that likewise identify a klick together a military unit of measure up equaling one kilometer.

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One the those resources is the online dictionary Merriam-Webster, i beg your pardon simply specifies “klick” as “kilometer.”

But wherein did the term originate? like many aspects of army culture, this term is shrouded in a little bit of mystery. Depending upon who friend ask the hatchet originated with Australian pressures serving in Vietnam, or that may have actually been adapted when U.S. Forces began doing operations v French pressures which supplied kilometers and also other metric-system measurements instead of miles, inches, etc.

Speaking the France…

The whole “miles versus kilometers” concern has its beginnings in France, which developed the meter as a unit of measure in the 18th century. Making use of meters ended up being popular in a range of disciplines and also it was asserted an official international unit of measure by something recognized as the Metre Convention that 1875.

Some had actually used a different descriptor for 1000 meters, the distance we recognize today as one kilometer–but in 1935 the worldwide Committee because that Weights and Measurements announced the main retirement the the term “myriameter” to denote 1000 meters, switching to kilometer instead.

How using “Klicks” could Have Started

In spite of the popular of the hatchet “klick” as army jargon from the Vietnam war era and onward, some resources report the opportunity of klick or a similar early change of kilometer being used as early on as world War I. Speculative as that might be, right here are some facts.

World war One began in 1914, v the United claims entering the conflict officially in 1917. American troops worked side-by-side or in coordination with other nations consisting of the U.K. And France. American pressures have always been crawl on interoperability in between forces and there have actually been disastrous results as soon as that level that coordination is not respected.

Why Standardization In military Measurement Counts

Why walk America need to get on board v a foreign unit that measure? yes an old hoax on this topic the goes, “Oppose international rulers–down through the Metric System!” however in a armed forces context, standardization have the right to save lives also if it way adopting a method to measure ranges that is unfamiliar (at first).

A good example the this necessity came throughout the infamous Gulf War-era familiar fire event that arisen in 1994 when an American AWACS mission mis-identified two U.S. Blackhawk helicopters as enemy aircraft over north Iraq. The military helicopters were fired top top by Air force F-15s, killing all on plank the military choppers.

One that the findings of the subsequent investigation was the the Air pressure “friend or foe” digital identification system did not encompass the Army’s “friend or foe” signifiers–a absence of interoperability to be at the very least partly responsible because that the deaths that those on plank the helicopters.

And while that is a much more modern-day example of just how a straightforward miscommunication in armed forces operations deserve to have deadly results, the class is clear–military forces must name: coordinates in level of information that walk all the method down to the require for standardized systems of measure up in stimulate to protect against miscalculations in firing weapons, identify the place of familiar forces, etc.

World war One and The require For A common Measurement

In civilization War One, this standardization had the require for a typical unit of measure, and since kilometers were supplied by numerous of the participating countries in “the war to finish All Wars”, America adapted the use of kilometers instead of miles. It’s believed that the affect of French troops might have to be responsible for the widespread use of kilometer in U.S. Planning.

What’s more, in ~ the end of people War Two, a north Atlantic Treaty organization (NATO) mandate was issued inquiry all army maps offered by NATO have to be standardized–further reinforcing the require for a usual unit of measure up for army operations and also planning.

Kilometers and also Klicks Evolve?

Use of “kilometer” would cause the usage of “klick” later on on, however no one have the right to agree on when that in reality occurred. Some speculate that U.S. Troops exposure come the military culture of Australian forces in Vietnam resulted in a more widespread usage of the jargon klick; Aussie pressures innovated a distinctive system to help them map and also navigate unfamiliar tropical terrain there.

Some sources report Australian pressures would monitor their motions by adjusting the gas regulator on Australian standard-issue military rifles–one adjustment because that every 100 meters traveled.

After ten adjustments, the Australians listed they had traveled 1000 meters or one kilometer, climate reset the gas regulator back to its initial position–something that results in a distinctive clicking sound. That would go a long way toward knowledge why a kilometre is defined as a klick.

See more: How Many Miles Long Is Manhattan Island, What Is The Length And Width Of Manhattan Island

It is likewise entirely feasible that editing and enhancing the indigenous “kilometer” for usage on open up radio frequencies was a method to help confuse an foe trying come intercept armed forces communications. Swapping out the technological word because that a “nonsense word” would certainly in theory confuse the enemy. At the very least until they recorded on come the trick–which would certainly not be difficult to do when the hatchet is in widespread use.

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Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran the the United claims Air Force and a former reporter for Air force Television News

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