Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

A former Google engineer who worked on the company’s infamous military drone project has sounded a warning against the building of killer robots.

Laura Nolan had been working at Google four years when she was recruited to its collaboration with the US Department of Defense, known as Project Maven, in 2017, according to the Guardian. Project Maven was focused on using AI to enhance military drones, building AI systems which would be able to single out enemy targets and distinguish between people and objects.

Google canned Project Maven after employee outrage, with thousands of employees signing a petition against the project and about a dozen quitting in protest. Google allowed the contract to lapse in March 2019. Nolan herself resigned after she became “increasingly ethically concerned” about the project, she said.


Nolan described her role as a site reliability engineer, and this is why she was recruited to Maven. “Although I was not directly involved in speeding up the video footage recognition I realised that I was still part of the kill chain; that this would ultimately lead to more people being targeted and killed by the US military in places like Afghanistan,” she said, according to The Guardian.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

A MQ-9 Reaper US military unmanned aerial vehicle.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

Nolan fears that the next step beyond AI-enabled weapons like drones could be fully autonomous AI weapons. “What you are looking at are possible atrocities and unlawful killings even under laws of warfare, especially if hundreds or thousands of these machines are deployed,” she said.

She said that any number of unpredictable factors could mess with the weapon’s systems in unforeseen ways such as unexpected radar signals, unusual weather, or they could come across people carrying weapons for reasons other than warfare, such as hunting. “The machine doesn’t have the discernment or common sense that the human touch has,” she said.

She added that testing will have to take place out on the battlefield. “The other scary thing about these autonomous war systems is that you can only really test them by deploying them in a real combat zone. Maybe that’s happening with the Russians at present in Syria, who knows? What we do know is that at the UN Russia has opposed any treaty let alone ban on these weapons by the way.”

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

The autonomous ship “Sea Hunter”, developed by DARPA. The US military christened an experimental self-driving warship designed to hunt for enemy submarines.

(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)

Although no country has yet come forward to say it’s working on fully autonomous robot weapons, many are building more and more sophisticated AI to integrate into their militaries. The US navy has a self-piloting warship, capable of spending months at sea with no crew, and Israel boasts of having drones capable of identifying and attacking targets autonomously — although at the moment they require a human middle-man to give the go-ahead.

Nolan is urging countries to declare an outright ban on autonomous killing robot, similar to conventions around the use of chemical weapons.

“Very few people are talking about this but if we are not careful one or more of these weapons, these killer robots, could accidentally start a flash war, destroy a nuclear power station and cause mass atrocities,” she said.

Business Insider has contacted Nolan for comment.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Kifaru Slick Bag: A zero-degree sleeping bag made for the wilderness

The chief debate among people searching for a cold-weather sleeping bag is the choice between down and synthetic fill. As a rule, down fill is lighter and more compressible than synthetic fill. However, down clumps when it gets wet and loses much of its insulation, while synthetic fill tolerates the dampness better.

I recently tested the Kifaru Slick Bag, which features synthetic Climashield APEX fill. This bag works well even when dam — and that’s an important feature to me since I live in the rainforest of Southeast Alaska. This fill also does not need to be kept religiously clean, as down does.


Designed for a wide range of conditions and climates, the Slick Bag is a standout, versatile sleeping bag. It is warm, tough, and light enough to carry.

Kifaru offers this bag rated for 20 degrees Fahrenheit, 0 degrees Fahrenheit, or negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The 0 degree bag is a solid all-around rating for where I backpack, but users in the Lower 48 may favor the 20 degree bag to save weight.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

(Photo courtesy of Kifaru International.)

I’ve yet to test it in temperatures below zero, but the Slick Bag has stood up well to nights in the single digits. Though I tend to sleep cold, the Slick Bag kept me warm, even when wet, mostly thanks to the Durable Water Resistant (DWR) coating on the bag’s exterior. The material is Kifaru’s RhinoSkin, a ripstop nylon that’s plenty tough for backcountry use. Kifaru claims it’s tough enough to sleep with boots on in the bag, though I didn’t test that theory.

The 0 degree Slick Bag weighs 3.35 pounds in regular width, making it light but not ultralight. The bag, when compressed, is easy to carry. The 20 degree bag weighs 2.9 pounds, and the negative-20 bag comes in at 4.43 pounds. Kifaru offers all of the bags in wide and long as well, though these features naturally increase the weight and cost.

The bag uses a center zip for ease of access, which has been an issue for heat retention in the past. Kifaru addressed that issue by adding a passive baffle system around the zipper and neck. If any heat bleeds off from the top zipper, it’s unnoticeable. For temperature regulation, users can unzip a lower section of the bag or adjust the hood. The bag has a looser fit than most other mummy-style bags, making movement easy, especially for side sleepers.

The Slick Bag comes in any color you want, too — as long as it’s coyote tan.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

(Photo courtesy of Kifaru International.)

Returning to that debate between down and synthetic fill, I have a confession: I generally prefer down. The light weight and low volume when compressed is ideal for a minimalist backpacker or ultralight hiker looking to shave off a couple more ounces from their pack.

But for a hunter, especially someone using vehicular transportation or who may be working out of a base camp where cutting ounces is not critical, a synthetic bag like the Slick Bag is the perfect choice. Not having to worry about water on the sleeping bag provides peace of mind. The bag is also great for anyone who plans on bivouac camping. Without the protection of a tent, the synthetic fill and water-resistant RhinoSkin exterior is a must.

The base price of the Slick Bag is 0 and ranges up to 8 depending on degree rating, length, and width, which is in line with other high-end synthetic bags. Along with tents and rain coats, sleeping bags are an important — albeit often expensive — part of safe camping. It’s worth it to find something that will do what you need it to do. It’s also important to take proper care of your investment — for long term storage, sleeping bags should be hung in a closet and kept dry.

Unlike some gear on the market that looks cool but falls apart quickly, Kifaru’s sleeping bags are built to stand up to hard use for a very long time. The Slick Bag is a well-built sleeping bag that will keep you warm and comfortable in harsh conditions.

EXCLUSIVE: Inside Travis Pastrana’s Record Breaking Jumps

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

How ‘1917’ military advisor prepares actors to fight WWI’s devastating battles

Creating a realistic battle scene — whether it’s from World War II or the Napoleonic Wars — demands technical know-how and precise attention to detail.

Paul Biddiss, the military technical adviser on the upcoming World War I movie “1917,” taught the actors everything they needed to know, from proper foot care to how to hold a weapon, “which allows the actor to concentrate on his primary task. Acting!” Biddis told Insider.

Biddiss has worked on projects from a variety of time periods — “large Napoleonic battles through to World War I, World War II, right up to modern-day battles with Special Forces,” Biddiss said.

Read on to learn about how Biddiss prepared “1917” performers for the gruesome, grueling warfare of World War I.


Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Javier Alvarez)

Biddiss spent 24 years in the British military before finding a career in film.

Biddiss, a former paratrooper, started his film career as an extra on the movie “Monuments Men.”

Since then, he has worked on projects like “Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation,” HBO’s “Catherine the Great,” and “The Crown.”

“I always tell people military film advising is 60% research and 40% of my own military experience added in to the mix,” Biddiss told Insider by email.

To prepare for a shoot, Biddiss obtains authentic training manuals appropriate to the conflict.

“I like to first understand the recruitment and training process, the rank structure and attitude between the ordinary ranks and officers,” he said. “This helps me better understand the battles and tactics used by the men and what must have been going through their heads at the time.”

That helps him structure a training program appropriate to the conflict, and safe for the performers — even when he’s short on prep time.

“When tasked to train 500 supporting artists for [the BBC’s] ‘War and Peace,’ I only had three days to research Napoleonic warfare and prepare a safe structured training program before flying out to Lithuania to train the men before a large battle sequence.”

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

Director Sam Mendes with actors Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay on the set of “1917.”

Training on “1917” started from the ground up — literally.

“Foot care was one of the first lessons I taught George [MacKay] and Dean [Charles Chapman], the importance of looking after their feet daily,” Biddiss said, referring to two stars of “1917.” “Basic recruits are taught this still even today.”

Trench foot, a common condition in World War I, is caused by wet, cold, and unsanitary conditions. It can be avoided by keeping the feet dry and clean, but left untreated it can lead to gangrene and amputation.

“The boys were wearing authentic period boots, walking and running in the wet mud all day and if not addressed early would have cause them major problems on set,” Biddiss said. “I taught them how to identify hot spots on the feet where the boots rubbed, taping up those hotspots to prevent blisters and applying talc and clean socks at every opportunity.”

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

A battle scene in “1917.”

Battle scenes require a lot from performers, but Biddiss said he “would never dream of asking an actor to do something I was not physically able to do myself.”

“I naturally train most days to keep myself in shape” and to instill confidence in his abilities, Biddiss told Insider.

“It’s not a good look if you’re a military adviser and you’re carrying around excess weight” and get winded after a short walk, he said.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

Shooting a scene from “1917.”

(Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures)

With hundreds of extras, making sure all the performers were right for the movie was a massive task in itself, Biddiss said.

“We first ran local auditions,” Biddiss said. “I then ran assessments before boot camps to make sure we had the right people who not only looked right, but were coordinated and physically robust to take on the task.”

After the performers were selected, “I started with basic arms drill to test coordination, fitness to test stamina,” he said. “Then to weapon handling, historical lessons, and tactics.”

“There so much attention to detail, like I’ve never seen before on set,” Biddiss said.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

Mendes with Chapman and MacKay on the set of “1917.”

Biddiss has to teach the performers how to look and feel both natural and accurate when using their weapons.

Weapons handling is one of the main hurdles in preparing an actor for battle.

“There could [be] over 500 supporting artists on set with bayonets fixed and firing blank rounds,” Biddiss said. “The blanks used are very powerful and can still do permanent damage, so if time is not invested in training it could all go horribly wrong.”

It’s also one of the things he notices other productions often don’t get right. Biddiss said he notices performers never reloading their weapons or always having their fingers on a gun’s trigger.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

MacKay in a scene from “1917.”

Throughout the production, the mindset of the performers has to be just like that of a soldier, Biddiss said.

“I like to impress on one aspect,” Biddiss said. “Fear and anger.”

“I tell actors and supporting artists that they need to show both feelings on their faces when about to act a battle sequence,” he said. “Fear of dying, but anger towards the people who have brought them to this situation.”

“There is nothing ninja about soldiering,” Biddiss tells the performers he trains. “You have one job. Close in and kill the enemy.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Pentagon’s biggest enemy isn’t China or Russia

Our military is faced with a conflicting dichotomy. On one hand, we tout that we are the most technologically advanced military force on the planet. On the other, the Pentagon states that we need to upgrade our defenses to keep up with the looming threats. Depending on which briefing you attend, you may hear that the Department of Defense (DoD) is operating under a very tight budget; meanwhile, the news media points out the United States spends more on defense than any other nation in the world.

So what gives? What is really happening?


To fully grasp the intricacies of the U.S. military’s budget and expenditures, we must take a holistic look at the budgetary process.

Who’s Really in Charge of the Military?

Each year, the service components draft their needs and submit them in a prioritized list to the Secretary of Defense. These lists are consolidated and given over to the president. The president, not being a military man, relies on the suggestions and vision of the service chiefs. In January of every year, the president submits his budget proposal (for the next year) to Congress.

The House and Senate each have their own Armed Services Committee, who eventually reconcile the two agendas; they determine what the military is authorized (how much they’re allowed to have) and what the military is appropriated (what they’re allowed to purchase that year). Once reconciled, Congress votes on the National Defense Authorization Act late in the calendar year. The NDAA then becomes law; the military must purchase those designated items.

This begs the question: who determines what the U.S. military will be comprised of? Sadly, it appears that the commander-in-chief merely makes recommendations; it is the Congress who has the final say.

Unfortunately, two flaws can be spotted in this system. First, it may be possible that a member of Congress may skew military appropriations in order to curry favor with their constituents. For example, Senator Susan Collins from Maine successfully petitioned to build the third Zumwalt-class destroyer to keep her state’s Bath Iron Works shipyard in business; at the time, it was a ship the Navy did not want. Second, once the appropriations are issued, it becomes a monumental fight to change them. What if a service realized that they need to change what they are purchasing because of a new threat? It would face the huge task of convincing Congress of the need to change the purchasing strategy mid-stream. It may prove more difficult than the effort itself.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

DoD

The Push for Technology

There’s a consensus among military analysts that posits the technological advantages of our adversaries. They assert that Russia and China have already surpassed the United States in terms of technological abilities. In these analyses, they credit foreign missiles with absolute reliability and perfect accuracy while discrediting our own.

This trend has spurned the admirals and generals into action; there is a palpable emphasis in developing futuristic weapons to not only meet the challenge, but to far exceed it. At this point, I will concede that there is value in developing weaponry for the future. However, I will dispute the overwhelming emphasis currently placed upon it. If one is focused on a futuristic battle, you may not be prepared for the near-term skirmish.

The DoD budget for Fiscal Year 2021 stands at 8 billion in total. Of that, 4.3 billion is being spent on Research, Development, Testing, Evaluation (RDTE); this is the highest value in our country’s history. This money will be spent on the development of weapons that do not yet exist. Items such as laser rayguns, howitzers with global reach, and deflector shields sound good in theory, but the technology isn’t mature enough to make them a reality.

Each service component has a number of pet-projects that are purely hypothetical at this point: the Air Force’s B-21 stealth bomber concept boasts unmatched abilities, when it hasn’t even flown yet; the Navy’s electromagnetically driven catapults and elevators still haven’t proven their worth; the Army’s search for a robot that can autonomously carry an infantryman’s load hasn’t reached fruition; and all of the services are constructing massive databases to help each keep track of maintenance and availability at extreme cost.

I do not believe these programs should be canceled, but they should not be the national priority. These programs should be relegated to the “back burner” until technology can catch up to the promised capabilities.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

DoD

The Value of Our Current Force

Right now, the U.S. military is, by far, the strongest force on the planet. Let’s review recent history.

In 1991, the U.S. military dismantled the Iraqi army in 96 hours. Later, in 2003, the US military crushed the Iraqi army in less than weeks, while using only two divisions as the spearhead. In Afghanistan, the U.S. military forced the Taliban government to fall within three months. Since that time, the United States has held control of Afghanistan longer than the Russians or Alexander the Great ever did.

Think about that.

Those are astounding time frames. But like any sports team, all the competitors would like to defeat the champion and claim the title. So, the United States must be vigilant to keep the hyenas at a distance. Because of that, I propose that Washington maintain its current force as its primary effort, while slowly developing its future capability as a secondary effort.

For a moment, let’s set aside the on-going technological revolution. The major weapons systems in the U.S. arsenal are sound, combat-proven, and worthy of keeping. Sure, they will require upgrades to keep pace with technological developments, but they are largely superior to most nations’ weapons. Our weapons systems cannot be allowed to fester or grow obsolete while we chase new futuristic weapons that are years from production. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once said, “You go to war with the army you have, not the one you might want or wish to have at a later time.”

The reality is that new weapons are prohibitively expensive and take too much time to build; because of the costly price tags of the new weapons, the Pentagon invariably ends up buying fewer new weapons and ends up lagging behind our adversaries in terms of the sheer total number of systems; during these extensive construction times, we must maintain our current force structure by funding the “in-place” weapons systems.

Conspiracy Theory

Political doves often create conspiracy-laden theories that accuse the most outlandish plots. One of them touts that the average citizen does not truly comprehend how much the weapons manufacturing industries fuel the U.S. economy overall. True, the military-industrial complex affects many jobs in many states, but the funding of programs just to create “jobs” eventually hurts the military. It is sometimes necessary to cancel a project and shift its money to another more worthwhile project. This may hurt some Congress-members, and it may mean shifting funding to another defense company, but in the end, the United States will benefit from the security gained from a good piece of military hardware.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

DoD

The Way Forward

To unravel the convoluted budgetary process and streamline defense acquisition, the president should request a special meeting with both Congressional Armed Services Committees to appeal for one-time special monetary powers to shift defense spending toward ‘at risk’ military capabilities. Funds would have to be shifted on an emergency basis, with the aim of purchasing the best items now rather than perfect items far in the future. The president should propose:

1) The RDTE value should be reduced by 10 percent for one year. Research could still continue with the remaining .9 billion, although some delays could be expected. The .4 billion could be used elsewhere.

2a) Purchase another eight F-15EX fighters for id=”listicle-2645629724″.2 billion, as the Air Force did last year. This would serve to augment the F-15 fleet during the slow expansion of the F-35 acquisition.

2b) Along a similar vein, initiate the purchase of sixteen F-16V Block 72 fighters for id=”listicle-2645629724″.3 billion. Just the addition of the AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) will be a great improvement of the Viper’s potential, given that the F-16 will still be flying beyond 2030.

3) Purchase another Virginia-class Block V submarine with the additional Virginia Payload Module for .75 billion. This would help in the Navy in two ways: the VPM capability will assist with the aging SSGN line of ships, which will retire soon; it will bring up the submarine production schedule, which had slowed over the last two years. This will alleviate concern of the shrinking attack submarine numbers. Further, insist that all future acquisition of Virginia-class attack submarines be equipped with the VPM missiles to ameliorate the retirement of SSGNs.

4) Disburse id=”listicle-2645629724″ billion to change the structure/composition of the Littoral Combat Ship. To date, twenty LCS ships have been laid down. These ships are misfits within the Navy, not truly fulfilling any particular mission. The president should insist that the remaining ships in the class (fifteen hulls) be re-configured as mini-arsenal ships. Using the current hull design, the super-structure would have permanently installed VLS systems to house the Naval Strike Missile, the Harpoon Block 1C anti-ship missile, the Standard Missile 2 missiles or the Standard Missile 6; all of these guided by the SPY-1F Aegis radar; however, this would most likely eliminate the helicopter landing pad in the stern of the ship. In short, the last fifteen LCS ships would be turned into offensive weapons systems and serve as an interim frigate until a new ship design is introduced.

5) Implement a significant change to an Army major acquisition program. Currently, three Services use a variant of the V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft. The Army, however, insists on building its tilt-rotor from scratch. This is costly and time-consuming. The commander-in-chief should bring the Army into the DoD fold by demanding the purchase of the latest CV-22 version to replace the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft program. This would save billions in developmental research. As an incentive, the commander-in-chief would offer id=”listicle-2645629724″ billion to this effort. The Army would benefit from the improvements made by the other Services, while taking advantage of an active production line.

6) Purchase another Arleigh Burke-class Flight III destroyer, specifically designed to fulfill the air defense role, for billion. The Arleigh Burke is the workhorse for the Navy, and should continue for the foreseeable future. The Flight III design serves as the stopgap until the Navy can fill the role that aging cruisers are struggling with.

7) Lastly, the Army must complete upgrading its ground combat vehicles. Usually, this is a multi-year project. But in the light of increased adversaries, it should be completed sooner. 0 million is needed for sixty upgraded Stryker double V-hull combat vehicles with heavier weapon systems; 0 million would convert 168 Bradley vehicles to the new M-2A4 configuration; 0 million would purchase twenty-nine new M-1A2C Abrams tanks (about a battalion’s worth); all part of on-going programs.

Conclusion

The transfer of developmental funding to active, “ready” programs would require Congressional buy-in. But time can also be an enemy; thus, to keep our strategic advantage, it is worth the venture to shift our defense dollars to more meaningful projects. By shifting billion dollars, the president could ease the burden upon the Navy to restore its ship-building schedule; it would help the Air Force keep its fourth-generation fighters ahead of contemporaries; and bring the Army forward in its long-term upgrading process. This shift may slow the development of futuristic weapons, or it may invigorate the program managers to operate more judiciously.

A shift of billion dollars is a small number to Congress. But it is a valuable number in terms of maintaining our decisive edge over our enemies.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The 21-foot rule is more of a guideline (and may save your life)

As you walk out of a late movie with your date, a shady character steps into your path about ten feet in front of you. He produces a switchblade and demands your wallet. You know that in order to reach your wallet, your hand will swipe right past the concealed carry holster your trusty Glock 19 is nestled into, but could you level the weapon and fire before the assailant pokes you full of holes?

Chances are, you couldn’t.


There’s always room for debate within the tactical training community, as experienced (and often inexperienced) gunslingers develop their own unique approaches to engaging armed opponents. While many opinionated enthusiasts will subscribe to the idea that there’s only one right way to train or fight, the truth is that the right approach is often dictated by the user’s ability, training, and nerves.
Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

Military and law enforcement train frequently to ensure they can act quickly in life-or-death situations.

(US Air Force)

Put simply, two different people could be put into the same set of circumstances and may use the same approach to try to get themselves back out of it, but because of the innumerable variables at play in any fight (whether we’re talking fists or nuclear missiles), placing bets on a winner can be a crapshoot. That’s why, when it comes to training to survive a fight for your life, it’s often better to operate within training guidelines rather than the rules you may see published by those who assume it’s their way or the highway (to hell).

One such rule that is really more of a guideline is the often-debated “21-foot rule.” This rule was first posited by Salt Lake City police officer Dennis Tueller in an article he wrote entitled, “How Close is too Close?” Put simply, Tueller determined that an assailant armed with a knife or club could cover 21 feet in about 1.5 seconds, which is faster than most police officers could draw, aim, and fire their weapons from their hip holsters. This assessment produced two important tactical norms in the minds of many: the first is that a person may be justified in shooting an opponent armed with a knife or club within that distance, because there may not be time to adequately react if they chose to attack. The second is that once you’re inside that 21-foot radius, your approach to survival will need to shift.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

This dude probably should have drawn his pistol a while ago.

In the years since Tueller’s article was published back in 1983, this rule has been debated, “debunked,” re-debated, and incorporated into many training regimens… but it’s important not to get too caught up in the figures. That 21-foot figure was really meant to be a rule of thumb, rather than a hard-and-fast rule, because shooters of different skill levels respond at different rates of speed, opponents aren’t all the same speed either, and countless variables regarding the officer’s equipment and the environment the altercation takes place in can all affect how quickly and accurately a shooter can respond with deadly force.

Likewise, for those of us that aren’t members of law enforcement, relying on the idea that the rule is 21 feet can be pretty dangerous. Most casual shooters don’t have the same training and experience with their firearms as police officers tend to, and it often takes longer to draw a weapon from a concealed holster than it does from the open-carry hip holster position employed by most police officers.

So does that mean the rule is bunk? Absolutely not — it just means you need to use a bit of common sense in the way you employ it.

If you pride yourself on your Wild West quick-draw skills, your safe engagement distance might be notably shorter than 21 feet. If you do most of your shooting at a relaxed pace inside your local gun range with a stationary sheet of paper standing in as your opponent, your safe distance may actually be quite a bit greater than 21 feet.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

Casual range shooters are rarely as quick on the draw as trained police officers.

The exact distance isn’t as important as the understanding that a gun isn’t a guarantee of victory against knife-wielding attackers. In fact, inside the distance it takes to get a first down playing football, a knife can often be the deadlier option.

That information can help inform your approach to dangerous situations — like just handing over your wallet to that mugger that was inside of ten feet of you and your date. It can also help you prioritize targets in a multiple assailant situation.

If you want to know what your own equivalent of the “21-foot rule” is, it’s simple: have a friend time you the next time you’re training for rapid deployment of your firearm from its holster (in a safe and controlled environment). Slower than 1.5 seconds? Then your rule is further than 21 feet.

Articles

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons

Some people prefer holsters made from Kydex. Others would rather use a rig made from the skin of a dead beast (sad face).


Either way, a good holster isn’t just important to have; if you’re gonna go heeled, it’s vital. Sure, sometimes you don’t have a choice (like you poor bastards what hafta use Serpas), but when you do, you should make an informed, intelligent decision.

Here are three holsters released recently for your consideration. Note that this is a gear porn bulletin, a public service for those of you epistemophiliacs out there who want to Know Things. It’s neither a review nor a denunciation.

Grunts: Epistemophilia

1. Some Bawidamann Boltoron

First up, a couple sumthin’s from Bawidamann Shenanigans (Bawidamann Industries).

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons
Holsters with a side of sexy. (Photo: Bawidamann)

These Glock 17 holsters are open-bottomed (just how we like a bottom to be) and will fit a KKM compensated barrel.

They’re built from .09 Boltoron for Glocks with the X300U aboard; they’re for AIWB carry and utilize IWB (that’s “inside the waistband” for you youngins out there) and softloops or overhooks.

These are an adjustable depth, one piece design built with the seam on top of your slide. This is intended to keep the part that touches your inner leg rounded and smooth — because you don’t want it rough or scratchy unless you’re going for a mustache ride, right? These holsters are available for right or left-handed carry and are handmade in the distant reaches of faraway Ohio. They will fit G17s, G23s, or G34s, and they make use of the RCS (Raven Concealment Systems) claw to help minimize printing.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons
We like our holsters like we like our drinks: stiff and bottomless. (Photo: Bawidamann)

Gonna carry a blaster? You’re going to want to gas it up. You can do that with one of Bawidamann Industry’s “Uber CC Mag carriers.”

Why? Because, as Andrew Bawidamann says (and we’re not making this up), “…you never know if the exotic woman on your bed is the high priced whore you asked for or an assassin.”

Finally, someone besides us gets it.

Find Bawidamann Industries holsters here and mag pouches for concealed carry are here.

Bawidamann Industries is on Instagram, @bawidamann_industries, but you’d do better to follow Andrew personally, @abawidamann. On Facebook at /bawidamannindustries/.

2. DeSantis Thigh Hide — Guns and Garters

Next up, the DeSantis Gunhide Thigh-Hide. We like this for all sorts of reasons, though admittedly none of our minions have actually tried one.

First, it can be used to carry concealed by women who otherwise might resort to off-body carry (not our preferred method at all, though off-body gun is admittedly better than no gun). Second, it has removable straps to attach it to a garter belt.

Garter. Belt.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons
This is real life. (Photo: DeSantis Gunhide)

Now, this looks like it’d only be truly useful in a skirt- or kilt-wearing situation, and it’s possible it would present the same sort of problems a traditional thigh rig does (serious, it’s not the 90s anymore, quit using them unless you have to)…but it is something worth looking at.

The images on the DeSantis Gunhide website seem to indicate it’s intended for a cross-draw situation, which is less than ideal. If we wind up giving one a try we’ll see if that’s mandatory or an option. They make ’em for something like 30 different firearm manufacturers, usually with multiple models of each. The MSRP is $59.95

Meantime, for more information check out the product page right here or an informative video below:

Plus, Gene DeSantis dual-wields shotties…

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons
Pew pew. (Photo: DeSantis)

That’s enough reason to look at his gear right there. You can check out DeSantis on Facebook here if you’re so inclined, or follow them on Instagram: @desantisholster.

3. Comp-Tack L Line — Lasers and Lights

Lastly, we’ll take a quick look at the new L series holster from Comp-Tac. Coming to you in any color you want (as long as it’s black), the L-Line is a sorta universal: right- or left-handed, strong side modular pancake holster for pistols with WMLs attached.

The L-Line will fit (or so Comp-Tac tells us) blasters with Surefire XC-1, Crimson Trace 201/206, Lasermax Micro, and the TruGlo Micro Tac, but not (not) this thing:

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons
She might need a little elbow grease before your next duel. (Photo: Breach Bang Clear)

More on that here, if you’re interested — it’s real.

The current L-Line (presumably they’re going to expand it) has adjustable tension and will will fit the Sig P250/320 9.40/45 all lengths and the XD 9/40/45 in all lengths, as well as an assortment of SW MPs and Walthers. It ships with multiple mounting clips (because if you’re like us you like to mount in all sorts of different ways) and is optics-ready. It’s also open at the bottom to accommodate a threaded barrel. MSRP is $79.99.

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We like it when the colors match. (Photo: Comp-Tac)

We don’t have much in the way of imagery. Their social media presence kinda sucks balls (like, 793 1/2 posts about Black Friday) and there wasn’t much presented in the press release that went out — don’t let that stop you from giving their gear a look, however.

They’re on Facebook and on Twitter as well (@comptac).

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Brightest light in universe detected after mysterious space explosion

Two violent explosions in galaxies billions of light-years away recently produced the brightest light in the universe. Scientists caught it in action for the first time.

The explosions were gamma-ray bursts: short eruptions of the most energetic form of light in the universe.

Telescopes caught the first burst in July 2018. The second burst, captured in January 2019, produced light containing about 100 billion times as much energy as the light that’s visible to our human eyes.


Gamma-ray bursts appear without warning and only last a few seconds, so astronomers had to move quickly. Just 50 seconds after satellites spotted the January explosion, telescopes on Earth swiveled to catch a flood of thousands of particles of light.

“These are by far the highest-energy photons ever discovered from a gamma-ray burst,” Elisa Bernardini, a gamma-ray scientist, said in a press release.

Over 300 scientists around the world studied the results; their work was published Nov. 20, 2019, in the journal Nature.

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The Hubble Space Telescope imaged the fading afterglow of the gamma-ray burst GRB 190114C (center of the green circle) and its home galaxy.

(NASA, ESA, and V. Acciari et al. 2019)

50 seconds to capture the brightest, most mysterious light in the universe

Gamma-ray bursts happen almost every day, without warning, and they only last a few seconds. Yet the high-energy explosions remain something of a mystery to scientists. Astronomers think they come from colliding neutron stars or from supernovae — events in which stars run out of fuel, give in to their own gravity, and collapse into black holes.

“Gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful explosions known in the universe and typically release more energy in just a few seconds than our sun during its entire lifetime,” gamma-ray scientist David Berge said in the release. “They can shine through almost the entire visible universe.”

After the brief, intense eruptions of gamma rays, hours or days of afterglow follow.

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An illustration depicts a gamma-ray burst.

(NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

Telescopes have observed low-energy rays that come from the initial explosion and the afterglow.

“Much of what we’ve learned about GRBs [gamma-ray bursts] over the past couple of decades has come from observing their afterglows at lower energies,” NASA scientist Elizabeth Hays said in a release.

But scientists had never caught the ultra-high-energy light until these two recent observations.

On Jan. 14, 2019, two NASA satellites detected an explosions in a galaxy over 4 billion light-years away. Within 22 seconds, these space telescopes — the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope — beamed the coordinates of the burst to astronomers all over Earth.

Within 27 seconds of receiving the coordinates, astronomers in the Canary Islands turned two Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov (MAGIC) telescopes toward that exact point in the sky.

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On January 14, 2019, the Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov (MAGIC) observatory in the Canary Islands captured the highest-energy light ever recorded from a gamma-ray burst. This illustration of that event also shows NASA’s Fermi and Swift spacecraft (top left and right, respectively).

(NASA/Fermi and Aurore Simonnet, Sonoma State University)

The photons flooded those telescopes for the next 20 minutes, leading to new revelations about some of the most elusive properties of gamma-ray bursts.

“It turns out we were missing approximately half of their energy budget until now,” Konstancja Satalecka, a scientist who coordinates MAGIC’s searches for gamma-ray bursts, said in the release. “Our measurements show that the energy released in very-high-energy gamma-rays is comparable to the amount radiated at all lower energies taken together. That is remarkable.”

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The large central H.E.S.S. telescope array in Namibia detected the light from a gamma-ray burst on July 20, 2018.

(MPIK / Christian Föhr)

Ultra-high-energy light came in the afterglow, not the explosion itself

The photons detected from a gamma-ray burst six months earlier, in July 2018, weren’t as energetic or as numerous as those from the January explosion.

But the earlier detection was still notable because the flow of high-energy light came 10 hours after the initial explosion. The light lasted for another two hours — deep into the afterglow phase.

In their paper, the researchers suggested that electrons may have scattered the photons, increasing the photons’ energy. Another paper about the January observations suggested the same thing.

Scientists had long suspected that this scattering was one way gamma-ray bursts could produce so much ultra-high-energy light in the afterglow phase. The observations of these two bursts confirmed that for the first time.

Scientists expect to learn more as they turn telescopes toward more gamma-ray bursts like these in the future.

“Thanks to these new ground-based detections, we’re seeing the gamma rays from gamma-ray bursts in a whole new way,” Hays said.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The gun that makes the Warthog’s BRRRRRT is also on ships

The A-10 Thunderbolt is arguably the best close-air support plane in history thanks, primarily, to its GAU-8 cannon. The seven-barreled, 30mm Gatling gun holds 1,129 rounds and can chew up a modern tank. Despite its massive success in the air, the GAU-8 has proven to be far more versatile. Believe it or not, the GAU-8 is also at the heart of a last-ditch, anti-missile system used by a number of navies. That system is called the Goalkeeper.


The Goalkeeper uses a combination of sophisticated radars to detect incoming threats, typically missiles, and fires rounds from its cannon to obliterate the target before it can harm the ship. In function, this defense system is very similar to the U.S.’s Phalanx — the albino-R2D2 looking thing found on virtually every American ship built since the 1980s. The Phalanx, by comparison, uses the M61, a 20mm Gatling gun. It’s been upgraded over the years and has an effective range of roughly one mile.

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A Goalkeeper CIWS. This uses the GAU-8, normally found on the A-10, to achieve twice the range of the Phalanx. (US Navy photo)

The Phalanx, however, cannot completely prevent a ship from taking damage — the system’s range is too short to guarantee full diffusion. That being said, the damage a ship endures after an incoming projectile is struck by the gun is from fragments rather than a direct hit. The ship may spend a lot of time replacing radars and fixing other gear, but it beats being sunk. The Goalkeeper, on the other hand, intends to reduce the risk of even that damage

According to NavWeaps.com, the Goalkeeper has almost twice the effective range of the Phalanx. The longer range and more powerful rounds mean that when an enemy missile is hit, not as many fragments hit the ship — and those that do will do so with much less energy. This reduces the damage done to the ship and can even make the difference between keeping a ship in the fight and going back to port for lengthy repairs.

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Goalkeeper close-in weapon system onboard HMS Illustrious. (Royal Navy photo)

The Royal Netherlands Navy and the Royal Navy initially used the system. South Korea later acquired a number of the systems for their surface combatants and the system now serves with the Peruvian, Belgian, Qatari, Chilean, and Portuguese navies.

See the Goalkeeper bring BRRRRRT to a ship in the video below!

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too

It’s often said that if you want to know what equipment your car will have in 10 to 20 years, just look at the Mercedes-Benz S-Class; and it’s true. Every car today has a pretensioner seatbelt that preemptively tightens to prevent you from jerking forward in the event of a crash. The S-Class was the first car to include this feature in 1981. Today, many cars have active safety systems that use radar and cameras to detect if you’re about to have a collision and apply the brakes to bring you to a stop. While adaptive cruise control was first introduced by Mitusbishi, Mercedes introduced the first system that could bring the car to a complete halt on the S-Class back in 2005. The same principle applies to the military too. If you want to know what the regular line soldier will be equipped with in a few decades, look no further than special forces. Here are a few pieces of gear that have trickled their way down from tier one.

1. Rifle Optics

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A Delta Operator with an Aimpoint 2000 on his CAR-15 (U.S. Army)

In modern infantry units, just about every soldier gets some sort of optic on their rifle. Whether it’s a magnified ACOG or red dot CCO, having some sort of optic is a huge help when you’re on the shooting range (both one-way and two-way). The Army has even adopted a new variable-power rifle optic to equip all of its line soldiers across the force. However, before optics were commonplace in infantry units, they were first seen in special forces. One of the first red dots fielded by special forces was the Aimpoint 2000. “This was a game changer to me,” said former Delta operator Larry Vickers. “I went through OTC with iron sights…went to A Squadron, saw guys using red dot, I tried it, and at that point I realized the advantage that something like an Aimpoint red dot sight brings to the table…The way that red dot rights are used today kinda started back in the Delta Force late 1980s era with the Aimpoint 2000.”

2. Silencers

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A Navy SEAL (left) armed with a silenced MP5 (U.S. Navy)

Yes, they’re called silencers. Hiram Percy Maxim received the patent for his design in 1909 and marketed them as “Maxim Silencers”. The DoJ and ATF also use the term silencer. However, silencers are a bit of a misnomer. Depending on variables like caliber, bullet weight, powder, and barrel length, a silencer generally suppresses the sound of a gunshot. Very few firearms can actually be silenced to Hollywood levels of quiet. Still, the devices are effective at masking or modifying the noise created by a gunshot. Special forces units have used silencers since at least WWII with specialized weapons like the Welrod. In 1993, the Special Operations Peculiar Modification kit was introduced. The SOPMOD accessory system allowed special forces operators to adapt their weapons to different missions with attachments like optics, lights, and a silencer. At the end of 2020, the Marine Corps announced that it had begun widespread fielding of suppressors. The Corps’ goal is to field 30,000 suppressors by FY2023. The Army is also considering widespread use of suppressors with its Next Generation Squad Weapon program.

3. ATVs

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A special forces prepares to drive his ATV into a CH-47 Chinook (U.S. Air Force)

Well, ATVs and four-wheelers anyway. A specialized dune buggy called the Desert Patrol Vehicle was used extensively by special forces during Operation Desert Storm. In fact, the first U.S. forces to enter Kuwait City were Navy SEALs in DPVs. During the early years of the War on Terror, light utility vehicles were purchased off-the-shelf and employed by special forces. They proved invaluable for navigating the mountainous terrain and rough trails of Afghanistan. Motorcycles, quad bikes, and four-wheelers all helped tier one operators hunt down and destroy Taliban fighters throughout Operation Enduring Freedom. Seeing the potential of off-the-shelf vehicles like these, the Army adopted Polaris vehicles like the MRZR Diesel and the Sportsman MV850. These vehicles are often employed by light infantry units as scouts to quickly transit rough terrain. Their small size means that they can also be driven into a CH-47 Chinook and airlifted onto the battlefield.

4. Pistols

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A Navy SEAL armed with a Sig Sauer pistol (U.S. Navy)

While pistols are not new to line units, they are less common. The Beretta M9 was generally issued to officers and senior non-comissioned officers, but not to leaders at the squad and fireteam levels. On the special forces side, all members are dual-armed with both a rifle or their assigned weapon and a pistol. However, with the adoption of the Sig Sauer M17/M18 pistol, the Army plans to issue sidearms down to squad and fireteam leaders. This new policy gives junior leaders in regular line units more options in close quarter battle situations. Moving in this direction, it’s likely that all line soldiers will eventually be dual-armed just like special forces.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This new unmanned fighter drone could be your next wingman

Boeing Co. has unveiled a new concept for an unmanned fighter that would work autonomously alongside fourth- and fifth-generation fighter aircraft.

Dubbed the Airpower Teaming System, the drone-jet hybrid would be a multi-mission craft using artificial intelligence to conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions to supply pilots with more information during a conflict, according to the company.

The aircraft, which Boeing is co-developing with the government of Australia for that country, was unveiled at the Avalon Airshow.


The jet is 38 feet long and can fly more than 2,000 nautical miles, the company said. It uses A.I. “to fly independently or in support of manned aircraft while maintaining safe distance between other aircraft,” according to its fact sheet.

Boeing intends to hold its maiden flight sometime in 2020.

The concept is similar to an ongoing U.S. military effort.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

A full-scale model of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System air vehicle.

(Boeing)

The U.S. Air Force has been working to develop its own “Loyal Wingman” program, featuring unmanned fighters that could think autonomously sent out alongside F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, for example, to scout enemy territory ahead of a strike, or to gather intel for the aircraft formation.

The concept is part of the service’s Air Superiority 2030 road map, which the Air Force debuted in 2016. The road map outlines next-generation air dominance, defined as advanced fighter aircraft, sensors or weapons — or all of the above — in a growing and unpredictable threat environment.

Boeing CEO and chairman Dennis Muilenburg tweeted that the Airpower Teaming System will be the first unmanned aircraft designed and built by the company outside the U.S.

It will be the first Australian-developed combat aircraft since World War II, Reuters said. The country is investing roughly million into the project.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is Russia’s flying ‘tank killer’

During the last years of the Cold War, the Soviet Union was debuting two aircraft intended to hit ground targets on a tactical level. The Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot was one of these planes, the Soviet (and later, Russian) answer to the A-10. The other plane was the MiG-27 Flogger, which had some tank-killing power in its own right.

How could the MiG-27, a modification of the MiG-23 Flogger (which was designed to fight other fighters) be such an effective option against tanks? Well, one answer is in the gun — and as the A-10 has demonstrated, the right gun can do a hell of a lot of damage to armor on the ground.


The United States chose the GAU-8 as its tank-killer, pairing it with 1,174 30mm rounds to deliver that sweet, iconic BRRRT. Russia, on the other hand, opted for the GSh-6-30. According to RussianAmmo.org, this gun fires a staggering 5,000 rounds per minute. The only problem here is that the MiG-27 Flogger could only carry 260 rounds for this gun — which is enough for all of three seconds of firing time.

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The GSh-6-30 cannon is the heart of the MiG-27 Flogger.

(Photo by VargaA)

The Flogger didn’t just have a gun, though. The World Encyclopaedia of Modern Aircraft Armament notes that MiG-27 Flogger also could carry missiles, like the AS-7 Kerry and the AS-14 Kedge, for attacking ground targets. This platform could also haul up to a dozen 250-kilogram bombs, six 500-kilogram bombs, or four UB-32-57 rocket pods. The rocket pods were particularly lethal — each pod holds 32 S-5 rockets, armed with one of nine warheads, one of which was an extremely potent anti-tank option.

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A MiG-27 taking off.

(Photo by Rob Schleiffert)

The MiG-27 has retired from the service of Russia and former Soviet republics. India, however, still has this plane in service and there are a dozen more in Kazakh service.

Learn more about this lethal Russian attack plane that could kill tanks in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXUp71rd5q4

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This soldier calls the Ma Deuce machine gun ‘one sexy weapon’

John Browning got it right when he designed the .50 caliber machine gun in 1918. Nicknamed “Ma Deuce,” the .50 cal is considered the mother of all machine guns. Nearly nine decades after its introduction, the weapon is still getting positive reviews.


Related: The Army found an M2 .50 caliber machine-gun still shooting perfectly after 90 years of service

“It’s just a sexy weapon,” said SPC Sterling Jones in the video clip below from Sebastian Junger’s 2010 war documentary, “Restrepo.” “It’s the ultimate machine gun. That thing fires at an incredible rate, it’s not hard to maintain, it’s pretty simple, and it’s pretty reliable. Guys run and wrestle for the .50 cause it’s just the most fun to shoot.”

Add its effectiveness and reliability, and it doesn’t look like this weapon is going out of style anytime soon. The Ma Deuce is just too good.

Watch the full review:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the US military didn’t kill Kim Jong Un in 2017

The United States military watched as Kim Jong-Un smoked cigarettes around the next missile his country was going to test – a test designed specifically just to provoke the United States as Americans celebrated their independence. For over an hour, the top brass of the U.S. military just watched without ever ordering a strike or calling in some kind of attack.


For then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, that must have taken a lot of restraint.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

He was there to observe a rocket test, a test just like many before it. This time it was for a multi-stage intercontinental ballistic missile. The missile itself was in the last stages of development. Meanwhile, American military leaders had ample time to look through their weapons catalogs and choose which weapon would have been perfect to use to wipe two of America’s greatest annoyances off the map – North Korea’s ballistic missile site and the leader who supports its development.

But no attack ever came, according to The Diplomat’s Ankit Panda. The United States watched its dictator enemy pace around a missile for nearly 70 minutes before opting to do nothing.

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Kim Jong Un, the supreme leader of North Korea, smokes a cigarette just feet from the base of an untested, liquid-fueled rocket engine.

The U.S. knows North Korea is going to do something provocative on Independence Day – they always do – but the attack on the missile platform never came as expected. Instead, the next day the United States made a precision strike on some North Korean targets that demonstrated to Kim exactly what they were capable of, and specifically pointing out that the U.S. didn’t attack when it could have. After all, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wanted to “bring Kim Jong-Un to his senses, not to his knees.”

U.S. officials believed the attack the next day sent Kim a twofold message. The first was that the United States wasn’t interested in regime change. The second was that since the U.S. didn’t want to explicitly kill Kim, he didn’t really need to keep the weapons programs going.

Perhaps the message worked as intended – within a year, Kim would meet with President Trump in Singapore to discuss peace and denuclearization.

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