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I spy with my beady eye ...

20 Oct 2007

Automated field gun kills 9

This tragic story speaks for itself. After the operators cleared a jam in a Swiss/German Oerlikon 35mm MK5 anti-aircraft twin-barrelled gun during a live-firing military exercise, the gun turned to the left and fired a rapid burst of ½kg cannon shells directly at adjacent guns in the line, killing 9 soldiers and injuring 14. At the time, the gun was supposedly on 'manual', locked on to a target 1.5 to 2km away. On 'manual', it should not have turned at all.

According to news reports, "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.'" If 'computer error' equates to bug, then I can only assume the software must be horrendously complex and opaque to be so resistant to analysis ... which it probably is if it combines target acquisition/identification, range finding, gun control, oh and safety.

The South African Department of Defence is under pressure to conduct an inquiry.

Don't the procurers of such automated weaponry specify mechanical safety interlocks capable of physically preventing the turret from turning beyond set azimuth (and perhaps elevation) limits?

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