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

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One of those sources is the online dictionary Merriam-Webster, i m sorry simply specifies “klick” together “kilometer.”

But wherein did the hatchet originate? like many elements of armed forces culture, this term is shrouded in a little of mystery. Depending upon who friend ask the term originated v Australian pressures serving in Vietnam, or the may have been adjusted when U.S. Forces started doing operations with French pressures which provided kilometers and other metric-system measurements instead of miles, inches, etc.

Speaking of France…

The entire “miles matches kilometers” issue has its origins in France, which occurred the meter as a unit of measure up in the 18th century. Using meters came to be popular in a variety of disciplines and also it was claimed an official international unit of measure up by something known as the Metre Convention that 1875.

Some had used a different descriptor because that 1000 meters, the distance we understand today together one kilometer–but in 1935 the global Committee for Weights and also Measurements announced the official retirement the the ax “myriameter” to signify 1000 meters, switching to kilometer instead.

How utilizing “Klicks” might Have Started

In spite of the popularity of the hatchet “klick” as armed forces jargon indigenous the Vietnam war era and onward, some resources report the possibility of klick or a similar early change of kilometre being provided as beforehand as people War I. Dangerous as that may be, below are part facts.

World war One began in 1914, with the United claims entering the dispute officially in 1917. American troops worked side-by-side or in coordination with various other nations including the U.K. And also France. American pressures have always been crawl on interoperability in between forces and also there have been terrible results when that level that coordination is not respected.

Why Standardization In armed forces Measurement Counts

Why go America need to acquire on board through a international unit the measure? yes sir an old hoax on this topic that goes, “Oppose foreign rulers–down v the Metric System!” but in a army context, standardization have the right to save lives even if it means adopting a means to measure ranges that is unfamiliar (at first).

A great example that this necessity came during the notorious Gulf War-era trusted fire incident that emerged in 1994 once an American AWACS mission mis-identified two U.S. Blackhawk helicopters as adversary aircraft over north Iraq. The military helicopters to be fired top top by Air pressure F-15s, killing all on plank the military choppers.

One that the result of the subsequent examination was that the Air force “friend or foe” electronic identification mechanism did not incorporate the Army’s “friend or foe” signifiers–a lack of interoperability to be at the very least partly responsible because that the deaths of those on plank the helicopters.

And while the is a far more contemporary example of how a simple miscommunication in armed forces operations deserve to have deadly results, the lesson is clear–military forces must name: coordinates in level of detail that go all the way down come the require for standardized systems of measure in order to protect against miscalculations in shoot weapons, identify the position of friendly forces, etc.

World battle One and also The require For A usual Measurement

In people War One, this standardization consisted of the require for a common unit the measure, and since kilometers were offered by many of the participating countries in “the war to end All Wars”, America adapted the use of kilometers rather of miles. It’s assumed that the influence of French troops can have to be responsible because that the widespread usage of kilometre in U.S. Planning.

What’s more, at the finish of civilization War Two, a phibìc Atlantic Treaty organization (NATO) mandate was issued request all armed forces maps supplied by NATO need to be standardized–further reinforcing the need for a usual unit of measure up for military operations and planning.

Kilometers and Klicks Evolve?

Use of “kilometer” would lead to the usage of “klick” later on on, yet no one have the right to agree on once that actually occurred. Some speculate the U.S. Troops exposure come the military society of Australian forces in Vietnam led to a much more widespread usage of the jargon klick; Aussie forces innovated a distinct system to aid them map and also navigate unfamiliar tropical terrain there.

Some resources report Australian pressures would track their motions by adjusting the gas regulator top top Australian standard-issue army rifles–one adjustment because that every 100 meters traveled.

After ten adjustments, the Australians provided they had actually traveled 1000 meters or one kilometer, then reset the gas regulator back to its initial position–something that outcomes in a distinctive clicking sound. That would go a long method toward understanding why a kilometer is characterized as a klick.

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It is likewise entirely possible that editing the word “kilometer” for usage on open radio frequencies was a means to help confuse an enemy trying to intercept military communications. Swapping the end the technical word for a “nonsense word” would certainly in concept confuse the enemy. At the very least until they caught on come the trick–which would not be challenging to do as soon as 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 previous reporter because that Air pressure Television News

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