Russia’s Killer Drone in Ukraine Raises Fears About AI in Warfare

The maker of the lethal drone claims that it can identify targets using artificial intelligence.

KUBBLA AI drone made by Zala Aero Group sitting in launch device with desert landscape in background

A RUSSIAN “SUICIDE drone” that boasts the ability to identify targets using artificial intelligence has been spotted in images of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Photographs showing what appears to be the KUB-BLA, a type of lethal drone known as a “loitering munition” sold by ZALA Aero, a subsidiary of the Russian arms company Kalashnikov, have appeared on Telegram and Twitter in recent days. The pictures show damaged drones that appear to have either crashed or been shot down.

With a wingspan of 1.2 meters, the sleek white drone resembles a small pilotless fighter jet. It is fired from a portable launch, can travel up to 130 kilometers per hour for 30 minutes, and deliberately crashes into a target, detonating a 3-kilo explosive.

ZALA Aero, which first demoed the KUB-BLA at a Russian air show in 2019, claims in promotional material that it features “intelligent detection and recognition of objects by class and type in real time.”

The drone itself may do little to alter the course of the war in Ukraine, as there is no evidence that Russia is using them widely so far. But its appearance has sparked concern about the potential for AI to take a greater role in making lethal decisions.

“The notion of a killer robot—where you have artificial intelligence fused with weapons—that technology is here, and it’s being used,” says Zachary Kallenborn, a research affiliate with the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START).

Advances in AI have made it easier to incorporate autonomy into weapons systems, and have raised the prospect that more capable systems could eventually decide for themselves who to kill. A UN report published last year concluded that a lethal drone with this capability may have been used in the Libyan civil war.

It is unclear if the drone may have been operated in this way in Ukraine. One of the challenges with autonomous weapons may prove to be the difficulty of determining when full autonomy is used in a lethal context, Kallenborn says.

The KUB-BLA images have yet to be verified by official sources, but the drone is known to be a relatively new part of Russia’s military arsenal. Its use would also be consistent with Russia’s shifting strategy in the face of the unexpectedly strong Ukrainian resistance, says Samuel Bendett, an expert on Russia’s military with the defense think tank CNA.

Bendett says Russia has built up its drone capabilities in recent years, using them in Syria and acquiring more after Azerbaijani forces demonstrated their effectiveness against Armenian ground military in the 2020 ​​Nagorno-Karabakh war. “They are an extraordinarily cheap alternative to flying manned missions,” he says. “They are very effective both militarily and of course psychologically.”

The fact that Russia seems to have used few drones in Ukraine early on may be due to misjudging the resistance or because of effective Ukrainian countermeasures.

But drones have also highlighted a key vulnerability in Russia’s invasion, which is now entering its third week. Ukrainian forces have used a remotely operated Turkish-made drone called the TB2 to great effect against Russian forces, shooting guided missiles at Russian missile launchers and vehicles. The paraglider-sized drone, which relies on a small crew on the ground, is slow and cannot defend itself, but it has proven effective against a surprisingly weak Russian air campaign.

This week, the Biden administration also said it would supply Ukraine with a small US-made loitering munition called Switchblade. This single-use drone, which comes equipped with explosives, cameras, and guided systems, has some autonomous capabilities but relies on a person to make decisions about which targets to engage.

But Bendett questions whether Russia would unleash an AI-powered drone with advanced autonomy in such a chaotic environment, especially given how poorly coordinated the country’s overall air strategy seems to be. “The Russian military and its capabilities are now being severely tested in Ukraine,” he says. “If the [human] ground forces with all their sophisticated information gathering can’t really make sense of what’s happening on the ground, then how could a drone?”

Several other military experts question the purported capabilities of the KUB-BLA.

“The companies that produce these loitering drones talk up their autonomous features, but often the autonomy involves flight corrections and maneuvering to hit a target identified by a human operator, not autonomy in the way the international community would define an autonomous weapon,” says Michael Horowitz, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who keeps track of military technology.

Despite such uncertainties, the issue of AI in weapons systems has become contentious of late because the technology is rapidly finding its way into many military systems, for example to help interpret input from sensors. The US military maintains that a person should always make lethal decisions, but the US also opposes a ban on the development of such systems.

To some, the appearance of the KUB-BLA shows that we are on a slippery slope toward increasing use of AI in weapons that will eventually remove humans from the equation.

“We’ll see even more proliferation of such lethal autonomous weapons unless more Western nations start supporting a ban on them,” says Max Tegmark, a professor at MIT and cofounder of the Future of Life Institute, an organization that campaigns against such weapons.

Others, though, believe that the situation unfolding in Ukraine shows how difficult it will really be to use advanced AI and autonomy.

William Alberque, Director of Strategy, Technology, and Arms Control at the International Institute for Strategic Studies says that given the success that Ukraine has had with the TB2, the Russians are not ready to deploy tech that is more sophisticated. “We’re seeing Russian morons getting owned by a system that they should not be vulnerable to.”

Wired.com

Dirty Harry has a bigger gun. Or does he?


Dirty Harry can now upgrade to a bigger handgun.  The .44 Magnum that Harry used was very powerful.  It could take down a punk rapist at 150 meters and if it hit the punk in the head, it would take it clean off.  Even if it winged a slimy street robber it would take out such a big chunk, that the robber punk would be neutralized.

But now there is a bigger cannon on the block.  The Model 500 from Smith & Wesson is the biggest, heaviest, most powerful factory-production double-action revolver in the world. It’s built on an entirely new and massive S&W frame size. It fires the new .500 S&W Magnum cartridge, which is the most powerful factory load ever developed specifically for handgun use. The gun and the cartridge are both impressive product accomplishments, beyond the industry norm, and both moved together from concept to reality in less than a year.

This gun is 34 percent more powerful than the .44 Magnum.  If Dirty Harry used this weapon he could take down a rogue elephant at 200 meters.  Or splatter bad boy punk street slime all over the side of a building at 250 meters.  This bazooka fires a 50 caliber cartridge.  The .500 Magnum would very definitely make Dirty Harry’s day.

 The .500 Magnum (top) compared to the .44 Magnum.

“Atomic Annie”

The M65 atomic cannon, often called “Atomic Annie“, was a towed artillery piece built by the United States and capable of firing a nuclear device. It was developed in the early 1950s, at the beginning of the Cold War, and fielded, by 1953, in Europe and Korea.

Picatinny Arsenal was tasked to create a nuclear capable artillery piece in 1949. Robert Schwartz, the engineer who created the preliminary designs, essentially scaled up the 240mm shell (then the maximum in the arsenal) and used the German K5 railroad gun as a point of departure for the carriage. (The name “Atomic Annie” likely derives from the nickname “Anzio Annie” given to a German K5 gun which was employed against the American landings in Italy.) The design was approved by the Pentagon, largely through the intervention of Samuel Feltman, chief of the ballistics section of the ordnance department’s research and development division. A three-year developmental effort followed. The project proceeded quickly enough to produce a demonstration model to participate in Dwight Eisenhower’s inaugural parade in January 1953.

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The cannon was transported by two specially designed tractors, both capable of independent steering in the manner of some extra-long fire engines. Each of the tractors was rated at 375 hp, and the somewhat awkward combination could achieve speeds of 35 miles an hour and negotiate right angle turns on 28 ft wide, paved or packed roads. The artillery piece could be unlimbered in 15 minutes, then returned to traveling configuration in another 15 minutes.

On May 25, 1953 at 8:30am, the atomic cannon was tested at the Nevada Test Site (specifically Frenchman Flat) as part of the Upshot-Knothole series of nuclear tests. The test — codenamed “Grable” — was attended by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Arthur W. Radford and Secretary of Defense Charles Erwin Wilson; it resulted in the successful detonation of a 15 kt shell (W9 warhead) at a range of seven miles. This was the first and only nuclear shell to be fired from a cannon (the Little Feller 1 test shot of an M388 used a Davy Crockett weapon system which was a recoilless smooth bore gun firing the warhead mounted on the end of a spigot inserted in the barrel of the weapon.)

After the successful test, there were at least 20 of the cannons manufactured at Watervliet and Watertown Arsenals, at a cost of $800,000 each. They were deployed overseas to Europe and Korea, often continuously shifted around to avoid being detected and targeted by opposing forces. Due to the size of the apparatus, their limited range, the development of nuclear shells compatible with existing artillery pieces (the W48 for the 155mm and the W33 for the 203mm), and the development of rocket and missile based nuclear artillery, the M65 was effectively obsolete soon after it was deployed. However, it remained a prestige weapon and was not retired until 1963.

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The kind of monstrous weapons the Cold War spurned is mind boggling.

North Korea launches ballistic missile at North America

After doing some bad methamphetamine, Kim Jong Un and his brown nosing generals decide to hit the U.S. with their new long-range missile the KN-08. The intended target was either Los Angeles or San Francisco according to RAND Corporation analysts.

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The missile guidance system fails, as predicted by Stephen Colbert, and lands a thousand miles to the north. The missile and its nuclear warhead land in southern Alberta, Canada. Barley missing blowing up a herd of 10,000 black Angus cattle.

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It is time Canada gets on board with the U.S. anti-ballistic missile defense system.

There is still too many nuclear weapons in the world 

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Nine countries together possess more than 15,000 nuclear weapons. The United States and Russia maintain roughly 1,800 of their nuclear weapons on high-alert status – ready to be launched within minutes of a warning. Most are many times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. A single nuclear warhead, if detonated on a large city, could kill millions of people, with the effects persisting for decades.

Size comparison of nuclear explosions

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The failure of the nuclear powers to disarm has heightened the risk that other countries will acquire nuclear weapons. The only guarantee against the spread and use of nuclear weapons is to eliminate them without delay. Although the leaders of some nuclear-armed nations have expressed their vision for a nuclear-weapon-free world, they have failed to develop any detailed plans to eliminate their arsenals and are modernizing them.

COUNTRYNUCLEAR PROGRAMMESIZE OF ARSENAL
United StatesThe first country to develop nuclear weapons and the only country to have used them in war. It spends more on its nuclear arsenal than all other countries combined. 6,970 warheads
RussiaThe second country to develop nuclear weapons. It has the largest arsenal of any country and is investing heavily in the modernization of its warheads and delivery systems. 7,300 warheads
United KingdomIt maintains a fleet of four nuclear-armed submarines in Scotland, each carrying 16 Trident missiles. It is considering whether to overhaul its nuclear forces or disarm. 215 warheads
FranceMost of its nuclear warheads are deployed on submarines equipped with M45 and M51 missiles. One boat is on patrol at all times. Some warheads are also deliverable by aircraft. 300 warheads
ChinaIt has a much smaller arsenal than the US and Russia. Its warheads are deliverable by air, land and sea. It appears to be increasing the size of its arsenal at a slow pace. 260 warheads
IndiaIt developed nuclear weapons in breach of non-proliferation commitments. It is increasing the size of its nuclear arsenal and enhancing its delivery capabilities. 100–120 warheads
PakistanIt is making substantial improvements to its nuclear arsenal and associated infrastructure. It has increased the size of its nuclear arsenal in recent years. 110–130 warheads
IsraelIt has a policy of ambiguity in relation to its nuclear arsenal, neither confirming nor denying its existence. As a result, there is little public information or debate about it. 80 warheads
North KoreaIt has a fledgling nuclear weapons programme. Its arsenal probably comprises fewer than 10 warheads. It is not clear whether it has the capability to deliver them.<10 warheads
Total15,350 warheads
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I came across a British tabloid site that had an article on where is the best places on the planet to survive a nuclear war. The list is funny, to say the least.

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Kansas City! Kansas City is a major American population center. It undoubtedly would be targeted by the Russians.

The island of Guam in the eastern Pacific is a United States territory. It hosts a major American nuclear submarine base and thousands of Marines. Without a doubt, it is targeted.

Cape Town and Antarctica would possibly be safe places. But after the world economy and infrastructure is destroyed. Who do the residents of these places deal with? Tristan Da Cunha would be the safest place on the list.

Isle of Lewis, Iceland, Bern and the Yukon: These places wouldn’t be targets, but they would have to contend with a 5 year nuclear winter of 24 hour dark skies and intense fallout radiation. Not good places. 

The key here is that these horrible weapons are built for deterrent. Nobody wants to use them, there would be no winner. And with the safeguards in place it is highly unlikely responsible nations would accidently launch a nuclear attack. However, there is rogue countries with the bomb like North Korea, and to a lesser extent Pakistan. Kim Jong-Um is a very deranged and scary individual. He could do anything. Another concern is if terrorists would get their hands on a weapon. There would not be any second thoughts by those radical extremists to try and use a bomb.

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Gigantic Gun for bringing down Waterfowl

A Punt Gun, used for duck hunting but were banned because they depleted stocks of wild fowl

Called the “Punt Gun” this firearm of unusual size could discharge over a pound of shot at a time, and dispatch upwards of fifty waterfowl in a single go.  A punt gun is a type of extremely large shotgun used in the 19th and early 20th centuries for shooting large numbers of waterfowl for commercial harvesting operations and private sport. “Used for duck hunting” isn’t the right expression for aiming this piece of artillery in the general direction of a flock of ducks, firing, and spending the rest of the day picking up the carcasses.

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In the early 1800’s the mass hunting of waterfowl to supply commercial markets with meat became a widely accepted practice. In addition to the market for food, women’s fashion in the mid 1800’s added a major demand for feathers to adorn hats. To meet the demand, professional hunters developed custom built extremely large shotguns (bore diameters up to 2″) for the task. These weapons were so cumbersome that they were most often mounted on long square-ended flat-hulled boats called punts. Hunters would typically use a long pole to quietly push their punt into range of a flock of waterfowl resting on the lake and, POW. A single shot from one of these huge guns could kill as many as 50 birds. To increase efficiency even further, punt hunters would often work in groups of 8-10 boats. By lining up their boats and coordinating the firing of their single shot weapons, entire flocks of birds could be “harvested” with a single volley. It was not unusual for such a band of hunters to acquire as many as 500 birds in a single day. Because of the custom nature of these weapons and the lack of support by the weapons industry, they were often rather crude in design. Most were sturdy hand-built muzzle loaders fired with percussion caps.

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The Punt Guns were too big to hold and the recoil so large that they were mounted directly on the punts used for hunting, hence their name. Hunters would maneuver their punts quietly into line and range of the flock using poles or oars to avoid startling them. Generally the gun was fixed to the punt, thus the hunter would maneuver the entire boat in order to aim the gun. The guns were sufficiently powerful, and the punts themselves sufficiently small, that firing the gun generated so much force that it pushed the boat back.

In the United States, this practice depleted stocks of wild waterfowl and by the 1860s most states had banned the practice. The Lacey Act of 1900 banned the transport of wild game across state lines, and the practice of market hunting was outlawed by a series of federal laws in 1918.

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The 2004 film Tremors 4: The Legend Begins featured a punt gun used in combat. This punt gun was custom-built for the film and was 8 feet 4 inches (2.54 m) long, weighed 94 pounds (43 kg), and had a 2-inch-diameter (51 mm) bore (classified as “A” gauge by the Gun Barrel Proof Act of 1868 in Schedule B). The weapon was not actually of this bore, instead being a large prop shell concealing a 12 gauge shotgun firing triple-loaded black powder blanks, with the barrel sprayed with WD-40 lubricating oil to produce a large smoke cloud on firing.

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Nuclear Bomb Craters in Nevada

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The Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), previously the Nevada Test Site (NTS), is a United States Department of Energy reservation located in southeastern Nye County, Nevada, about 65 miles (105 km) northwest of the city of Las Vegas. Formerly known as the Nevada Proving Grounds, the site was established on 11 January 1951 for the testing of nuclear devices.
During the 1950s, the mushroom clouds from the 100 atmospheric tests could be seen for almost 100 mi (160 km). The city of Las Vegas experienced noticeable seismic effects, and the distant mushroom clouds, which could be seen from the downtown hotels, became tourist attractions. The vast majority—828 of the 928 total nuclear tests—were underground.

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Indiana Jones nuketown scene. Indiana is one tough hombre.

Gun resembling Lego toy sparks backlash in US

A US gun company is facing a backlash for producing a pistol that looks like a children’s toy made of Lego.

Culper Precision said its customised Glock weapon, named Block19, was developed to “highlight the pure enjoyment of the shooting sports”.

But Danish toymaker Lego has written to the company demanding that it stop producing the weapon, which is covered in what looks like Lego bricks.

Gun control campaigners described the pistol as irresponsible and dangerous.

Shannon Watts, of the Everytown for Gun Safety campaign group, said her organisation had contacted Lego about the customised Block19 last week, and that the Danish company had then sent a “cease and desist” letter to Culper Precision.

Ms Watts also criticised the gun company, which is based in Utah, saying there was a risk that children may be drawn to use firearms “even when guns don’t look like toys”.

Culper Precision said in a statement that it had chosen to release the Block19 in an attempt to show that guns were “for everyone” and that “owning and shooting firearms responsibly is a really enjoyable activity”.

It added that the firearm could only be purchased by those legally permitted to own a gun.

Culper Precision president Brandon Scott told the Washington Post newspaper that after discussions with a lawyer he decided to comply with the request from Lego.

The weapon appears to have since been removed from the gun manufacturer’s website.A US gun company is facing a backlash for producing a pistol that looks like a children’s toy made of Lego.

Culper Precision said its customised Glock weapon, named Block19, was developed to “highlight the pure enjoyment of the shooting sports”.

But Danish toymaker Lego has written to the company demanding that it stop producing the weapon, which is covered in what looks like Lego bricks.

Gun control campaigners described the pistol as irresponsible and dangerous.

Shannon Watts, of the Everytown for Gun Safety campaign group, said her organisation had contacted Lego about the customised Block19 last week, and that the Danish company had then sent a “cease and desist” letter to Culper Precision.

Ms Watts also criticised the gun company, which is based in Utah, saying there was a risk that children may be drawn to use firearms “even when guns don’t look like toys”.

Culper Precision said in a statement that it had chosen to release the Block19 in an attempt to show that guns were “for everyone” and that “owning and shooting firearms responsibly is a really enjoyable activity”.

It added that the firearm could only be purchased by those legally permitted to own a gun.

Culper Precision president Brandon Scott told the Washington Post newspaper that after discussions with a lawyer he decided to comply with the request from Lego.

The weapon appears to have since been removed from the gun manufacturer’s website.

It is illegal in the US to produce a children’s toy that precisely resembles a real gun, but the laws do not explicitly prevent manufacturers from making a gun that resembles a toy.

Accidents involving children and firearms are on the increase in the US. More than 140 people were killed in such gun-related incidents last year.

Americans and their damn gun obsession and culture. Makes no sense. Over the last weekend 175 gun related homicides in the country!

America’s gun culture in charts

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US president Joe Biden’s announcement on gun control throws the spotlight once again on Americans’ attitudes to firearms.

Here is a selection of charts and maps on where America stands on the right to bear arms.

How does the US compare with other countries?

There were 14,400 gun-related homicides in 2019.

Killings involving a gun accounted for nearly three quarters of all homicides in the US in that year.

That’s a larger proportion of homicides than in Canada, Australia, England and Wales, and many other countries.

Who owns the world’s guns?

While it is difficult to know exactly how many guns civilians own around the world, by every estimate the US, with more than 390 million, is far out in front. The latest figures from the Small Arms Survey, a Swiss-based leading research project, are for 2018.

Switzerland and Finland are two of the European countries with the most guns per person – they both have compulsory military service for all men over the age of 18. The Finnish interior ministry says about 60% of gun permits are granted for hunting – a popular pastime in Finland. Cyprus and Yemen also have military service.

How do US gun deaths break down?

Figures from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show there were a total of more than 38,300 deaths from guns in 2019 – of which more than 23,900 were suicides.

A 2016 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found there was a strong relationship between higher levels of gun ownership in a state and higher firearm suicide rates for both men and women.

The number of mass shootings fell last year during the pandemic.

According to investigative magazine Mother Jones, which has been tracking such incidents since 1982, there were only two in the whole of 2020. Mother Jones defines a mass shooting as three or more people shot dead.

It does not include violent crimes like robberies or gang-related violence in its statistics.

Other figures from the Gun Violence Archive suggest mass shooting may have risen last year. It uses a broader definition of shootings including those where victims are shot and injured, as well as robberies.

Attacks in US become deadlier
The Las Vegas attack in 2017 was the worst mass shooting in recent US history – and eight of the shootings with the highest number of casualties happened within the past 10 years.

How much do guns cost to buy?

For those from countries where guns are not widely owned, it can be a surprise to discover that they are relatively cheap to purchase in the US.

Among the arsenal of weapons recovered from the hotel room of Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock in 2017 were handguns, which can cost from as little $200 (£145) – comparable to a Chromebook laptop.

Assault-style rifles, also recovered from Paddock’s room, can cost from around $1,500 (£1,100).

Who supports gun control?
US public opinion on gun laws has fluctuated over recent years.

Opinion polling by Gallup suggests that a majority of Americans would like to see the laws covering the sale of firearms made more strict.

Some states have taken steps to ban or strictly regulate ownership of assault weapons. Laws vary by state but California, for example, has banned ownership of assault weapons with limited exceptions.

Who opposes gun control?
The National Rifle Association (NRA) campaigns against all forms of gun control in the US and argues that more guns make the country safer.

It is among the most powerful special interest lobby groups in the US, with a substantial budget to influence members of Congress on gun policy.

Figures from the Center for Responsive Government suggest that groups advocating stricter gun controls actually spent more than gun rights groups like the NRA in 2018.

In January 2021, the NRA filed for bankruptcy as part of a fraud case against some of its own senior staff.

The NRA said it would continue “confronting anti-Second Amendment activities, promoting firearm safety and training, and advancing public programs across the United States”.