Category Archives: Military

The British army wants You to drive its new tanks – but only if you’re a gamer

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All is not at it used to be in the British army, who are patiently waiting for its new Scout tank, set to be delivered some time in 2020.

The Scout is a complex machine kitted out with sensors, cameras and all kinds of modern electronics. I haven’t been able to confirm it, but there ought to be rumours flying about that it’s actually comes with an iPod docking station. At least there really ought to be those rumours flying about.

Anyway, all this new sensory equipment means that the olden days where a tank was operated by pulling levers are long gone.

Today’s tank crew needs a set of skills that has much in common with your average teen gamer.

“With the capability in the Scout SV, we’re really looking for the type of people who play Xbox games – tech-savy people who are able to take in a lot of information and process it in the proper way,” Kevin Connell, a vice president at General Dynamics, who is developing the tank for the British forces, told International Business Times.

The article goes on to talk about how easy it is to fire the main gun on the new tank…again, rumours ought to be circulating that foreign powers are so scared of this new weapon’s deadly potential that they have tried to incorporate details in the design that would render it less fearsome….like hacking through using control-alt-delete and / or the installation of Alt – F4 keys on the tank’s outside.

The reason for the jokes is: what place does a tank have on the battlefield of the future, which looks destined to be dominated by drones and semi-autonomous vehicles?

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Automatic killer robots – soon coming to a (war) theatre near you

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Killer robots that automatically target and engage enemies sound like science fiction. I mean, it’ basically a description of the terminator, isn’t it?

Well, according to a recent article in the superbly named Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist, that might be about to change.

“Drones and robots are enabled by embedded autonomous subsystems that keep engines in tune and antennas pointed at satellites, and some can navigate, walk, and maneuver in complex environments autonomously. But with few exceptions, the targeting and firing decisions of armed robotic systems remain tightly under the control of human operators. This may soon change,” author Mark Gubrud writes.

He points out that we already today have drones and missiles who are capable of hunt for, and decided is something – or someone – is a appropriate target. Another example is automated sentry systems that can detect and warn intruders to stand still on their own. If the intruder doesn’t comply, the systems can automatically engage him or her.

The next step is transferring these abilities to units capable of navigating autonomously in a theatre of war, which is, if you look at events at companies like Boston Dynamics, probably not as far off as you’d think.

How to turn duty free into a bomb making experience

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A friend of mine, who used to do a lot of travelling with his work, was often left wondering about the security checks in airports.

‘It’s weird,’ he’d ponder.

‘You go through the check point, where they tell you that you’re not allowed to have more than 100 ml of fluids that has to be sealed in tiny bags, through a screening process where you’re not allowed to carry a pair of nail scissors, or a shaving kit. The next thing you know, you’re walking straight into a duty free shopping area where you can buy high percentage alcohol, a shirt and a lighter…I mean, there’s gotta be a pretty easy way of combining those items into some sort of DIY Molotov cocktail, right?’

It seems he’s far from the only one who’s ever wondered about this sort of thing.

Take Evan Booth, for example. Actually, take Evan Booth as the example.

He’s a Digital Media specialist and programmer, who spends some of his spare time on picking locks, or giving talks on several subjects, including:

Airport Security
Creativity
Creative Problem-solving
Resourcefulness
Ninjas

In early 2013, he started a research project with this simple question: ‘Can common items sold in airports after the security screening be used to build lethal weapons?’

As it turns out, the answer is ‘yes’. The slightly longer answer is: ‘sure, in loads of different ways!’ – somewhat sadly, none of them seem to involve ninjas. They are, however, still very interesting.

Take the slow burning Blunderbuss(ness) Class gun, for example:

Or how making caffeine kick ass, literally, with the FRAGGuccino Mark II grenade:

Mr. Booth has constructed a series of similarly nasty weapons based on either his own or other people’s design ideas. They can be found at the website Terminal Cornucopia.

You might be asking yourself: ‘is this a good idea?’ ‘I mean, what if the wrong people get a hold of these instructions?’

Not to scare you, but what makes you think that the ‘wrong’ people (we’re probably talking about terrorists of various sorts) needed a site like Terminal Cornucopia to come up with these ideas? As it turns out, many key terrorist leaders have degrees in Engineering.

In his own words, Mr. Booth’s defence is that:

“All of these findings have been reported to the Department of Homeland Security (TSA) to help them better detect these types of threats. Furthermore, the next time you fly, you’ll be flying as a more informed consumer (and taxpayer, possibly) — one who is more equipped to demand better, more appropriate airport security.”

Drone goes off course – slams into US Navy cruiser

A malfunctioning drone decided to ‘head for home’ as it were, and ended up ramming into a ship belonging to ‘mother’ – ie the US Navy.

The ship in question was the Chancellorsville, which took part in operations like Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom….and now also Operation I’m Sure It Will Fly Past No Wait ITSSTILLCOMINGSTRAIGHTFORUSRUNRUNRUN!!!!

US Killer Robot Policy – No. 5 gets to press the fire button

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When the US Defence Secretary signed the deliciously named directive 3000.09, he was, in effect, launching the world’s first national policy on killer robots.

The purpose of the directive is split in two and reads like this:

“This Directive:

a.Establishes DoD policy and assigns responsibilities for the development and use of autonomous and semi – autonomous functions in weapon systems, including manned and unmanned platforms.

b. Establishes guidelines designed to minimize the probability and consequences of failures in autonomous and semi – autonomous
weapon systems that could lead to unintended engagements.”

So basically, it’s about who get to develop killer robots, and who we get to point the blame at, should the killer robots go all Robocop 2 on everyone.

It was released last year, but according to a thourhgly researched and very interesting article in the rather niche publication Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the policy actually:

“[…] fully supports developing, testing, and using the technology, without delay. Far from applying the brakes, the policy in effect overrides longstanding resistance within the military, establishes a framework for managing legal, ethical, and technical concerns, and signals to developers and vendors that the Pentagon is serious about autonomous weapons.”

What this means is that not only are we likely to see various arms manufacturers enter a race to build real versions of the No. 5 Robot from Short Circuit (minus the actual short circuiting and evolving feelings from jumping on a frog), but that one piece of legislation has achieved the nigh on impossible feat of horrifying human rights organisations and military drone operators at the same time. .

New documents show al-Qaeda’s fight against drones

According to a report in the Washington Post al-Qaeda leaders have groups of technical staff, including engineers, working on plans and ideas that will give them a better chance to fight US drone aircraft.

These ways could include shooting the drones down, jamming the radio signals that control them or even hijacking the drones, effectively making them do the bidding of al-Qaeda.

According to the report in the Washington Post, there have been few signs of any successes since the al-Qaeda programme was launched in 2010.

The information comes from a classified government report, called “Threats to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles”, which was provided to the Washington Post by Edward Snowden.

Although this is perhaps not news to some, the fact that al-Qaeda are actively engaged in this sort of programme is worrisome when one considers the U.S. Airforce Scientific Advisory Board’s two-year old report that warned of how:

““increasingly capable adversaries” in countries such as Afghanistan could threaten drone operations by inventing inexpensive countermeasures.”

That’s basically people who know a hell of a lot about unmanned flying vehicles telling you that people like the one’s mentioned in the other report are getting closer and closer to working out how to stop them / bring them down / take control of them….

India accuse Jupiter and Mars of invading its territory

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A story that would be a good candidate for the funniest thing to happen for a long time, if it wasn’t for the fact that it involves two countries who both have nuclear weapons.

That’s the quick way of summing up the recent sate of affairs between India and China, which can best be summed up as ‘tense’.

The reason is the disputed Himalayan border area between the two countries, and India has been especially miffed with the fact that China has been sending unidentified objects, possibly drone airplanes, flying into a region that India believes to be its territory.

A total of 329 nocturnal sightings had been reported, before astronomers recently helped the Indian military figure out that what they had sighted was actually the planets Jupiter and Mars.

Sometimes you wish you could just make this stuff up….

Pentagon uses 50 year old COBOL code to figure out who to pay

A recent story by Reuters details how the Pentagon’s payment system is heavily reliant on COBOL computer code, much of which is about 50 years old – seven million lines of Cobol code basically decides who gets paid.

And the code hasn’t been updated in the last 10 years or more….

While this is, of course, worrying for a lot of service personnel, many of whom have been on the receiving end of the mistakes made by the system, it’s probably good news for people worried about whether or not the system can be hacked.

As the Defense Joint Military Pay System, the office responsible for overseeing the system told Reuters:

“As time passes, the pool of Cobol expertise dwindles.”

Everybody’s doing it: India makes killer robots a priority

Hot on the heels of a recent UN conference on the legalities of what I guess can be described as ‘Toddler Terminators’ (wobbly, unsophisticated killer robots), India recently announced that the country was going to make the development of robotic soldiers a priority.

As the Times of India reported:

“Under the project being undertaken by DRDO (Defence R&D organisation), robots would be developed with very high level of intelligence to enable them to differentiate between a threat and a friend.”

Of course, in this case that means the ability to recognise a Pakistani passport…

Some say that India have already developed sophisticated killer robots. Don’t believe me? Look here.

Or let’s go straight to the tape: