Enterprise Software

Robotic anti-aircraft gun goes rogue, killing nine

In a horrific twist of events, a computerized anti-aircraft gun went out of control in a SANDF (South African National Defence Force) live-fire exercise. Attempts to shut it down failed as it sprayed hundreds of high-explosive 35mm cannon shells around the five-gun firing position.

In a horrific twist of events, a computerized anti-aircraft gun went out of control in a SANDF (South African National Defence Force) live-fire exercise. Attempts to shut it down failed as it sprayed hundreds of high-explosive 35mm cannon shells around the five gun-firing position.

By the time the Swiss/German Oerlikon MK5 twin-barrelled anti-aircraft gun had emptied its twin 250-round auto-loader magazines moments later, nine solders were dead, with another 11 injured.

It was believed that the gun jammed moments after the exercise began.

Excerpt from Independent Online:

When the female officer went forward to help the gunner clear the blockage, another shell was accidentally fired, causing some of the unspent ammunition in nearly-full magazines to explode.

The rogue gun began firing wildly, spraying high-explosive shells at a rate of 550 a minute, swinging around through 360 degrees like a high-pressure hose.

The unknown officer tried to shut the gun down but she couldn't because the computer gremlin had taken over. Her fate was unknown at the time of going to press.

A top-level board of inquiry involving military, police, and government will attempt to determine the cause of this tragic incident.

Excerpt from Wired Blog:

Other reports have suggested a computer error might have been to blame. Ex-Defence pundit Helmoed-Römer Heitman told the Weekend Argus that if "the cause lay in computer error, the reason for the tragedy might never be found."

Excerpt from The Register (Edit October 19: Insert additional excerpt to clarify robotic nature of weapon):

In normal use the gun is designed to automatically target aircraft, helicopters, and cruise missiles and fire when they come into range. The weapon is capable of operating, and even reloading, without human intervention. Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota told the National Assembly on Tuesday that all the guns were set on "manual" at the time of the exercise.

A cursory search of the gun model shows that it has a maximum hit range of 4km, coupled with automatic reloaders that "makes it possible to feed and fire all the ammunition available on the gun without manual intervention."

I leave it to you to infer the consequences had the gun been hooked-up with full ammunition reloads.

Are we putting too much computer automation into weapons that kill?

About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox