Today, applied technology startup TrackingPoint Solutions is working tirelessly to turn novice shots into precision snipers.
The company made headlines in early 2013 when it unveiled the precision guided firearm (PGF). Think of it as a long-range, laser-guided robo rifle—as much Linux-based computer as traditional firearm. The PGF’s closed-loop system comprises not just the gun itself, a custom Surgeon rifle, but also custom ammunition and, notably, a proprietary (and WiFi-enabled) scope. The technology packed into TrackingPoint’s initial PGF package is so advanced that we’d heard it could have an inexperienced shooter, maybe even someone who hasn’t ever fired a gun, putting lead on targets at over 1,000 away in mere minutes.
In spring of 2013, Texas-based start up TrackingPoint Solutions released the first ever precision-guided firearm, which is essentially a long-range, laser-guided robo rifle. Call it the gun of tomorrow: The technology is so advanced we’ve heard it can have beginners killing at extreme distances with single-shot accuracy in mere minutes.
The PGF’s closed-loop system is based off jetfighter lock and launch technology, something TrackingPoint CEO Jason Schauble says not only marks the next great paradigm shift in the evolution of firearms—it helps users make ethical kill shots too. But critics of the PGF platform, no doubt part and parcel of a rising tide of intelligent killer apps, say the gun, or rather its proprietary scope, marks the dawn of “skill-free killing”.
In LONG SHOT Motherboard visits West Texas, the frontline of smart weapons. We get a backcountry crash course through the PGF, hear about TrackingPoint’s plans to apply its system to a veritable suite of advanced weaponry, all built on custom software that promises to have novice shots like us to killing at 1,000 yards—and in the near future, potentially 3,000 yards—with single-shot accuracy, and try to untangle an increasingly knotty firearms debate in light of the so-called gamification of killing and, sadly, yet another mass shooting.
Has killing become too easy?
Uganda Is Taking Israel’s Unwanted Asylum Seekers to Get Cheaper Weapons
Earlier this month, it was reported that Israel was trying to swap Africans for arms. Or, more specifically, broker a deal with a number of unspecified African countries that would see thousands of African refugees included in lucrative deals for Israeli weapons and military training. If you take back these annoying, resources-sapping asylum seekers, the Israelis seemed to be saying, you can buy our guns for cheap.
The Israeli government is currently detaining thousands of African asylum seekers in desert prisons on the Egyptian border. Many of them now face being shipped off, against their will, to whichever African country will take them. Seemingly no thought has been paid to sending asylum seekers back to oppressive regimes they may have been fleeing in the first place.
It seems that a deal has now been struck, as late last week Israeli Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar announced that he would start the process of deporting migrants to Uganda.
The Israeli government already have strong relations with their Ugandan counterparts, with Israel currently “working to introduce sophisticated agro-technology" to the country. But it is newer support to Uganda’s military—weapons, training, fighter jets, and possibly drones—that many suspect to be behind the country’s decision to import asylum seekers from Israel.
"We’re hoping to operate in the coming weeks and months in a way that will make another exit for infiltrators in the country,” Sa’ar explained, “while trying to reach agreements with more countries.”
Israel’s Killer Robots
Israel is the world’s biggest exporter of military drones, used around the world for everything from surveillance to precision rocket attacks on speeding cars in remote locales. Israel’s drone program hasn’t stirred as much controversy as its American counterpart, but not because their targeted killings are any less fatal. VICE sent Simon Ostrovsky to a drone testing airfield in Israel to find out what their latest eye-in-the-sky can see.
Inside the Free Syrian Army’s DIY Weapons Workshops
During my five months in Syria, there’s one remark I keep hearing from the rebels: we need ammunition and we need heavy weapons. The makeshift army fighting Bashar al-Assad’s troops may be armed with plenty of ancient Kalashnikovs, a steady stream of young men ready to fight and die, and an unshakeable belief that Allah is on their side. But they’re facing a regime equipped with Russian-made tanks and fighter jets, a regime that’s apparently happy to unleash huge scud missiles and chemical weapons on its own population to keep itself in power.
The rebels and Assad’s forces are locked in a particularly sticky, horrendously bloody stalemate; the rebels can hold the front lines but find it almost impossible to advance because they don’t have the weapons and ammunition to make a push. The regime is able to fire heavy artillery at the residential neighborhoods held by the rebels, occasionally picking off fighters while simultaneously destroying the homes of ordinary citizens.
That’s clearly not an ideal situation to be trapped in. So it was inevitable that, at some point, the rebels would stop relying on the West to ship over weapons, and instead work out how to make them themselves.
Mohamad’s Molotov cocktail factory on the frontline in Salaheddin, Aleppo.
I decided to root out one of these DIY weaponry workshops and started my search in Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city and the center of the conflict since fighting erupted in 2011. On the front line, which runs through the city’s Salaheddin neighborhood, I met 17-year-old Mohamad. Together with two of his friends, he’s set up a Molotov cocktail factory in what used to be a little girl’s bedroom. Mohamad showed me how he fills glass juice bottles with oil, stuffs the tops with mattress foam and bits of ripped-up bed sheets, before lighting them up and flinging them towards the regime’s troops.
This Egyptian Lingerie Salesman Is Now an Illegal Weapons Dealer
Rising unemployment combined with rapid inflation has left many Egyptians jobless and desperate. High-profile violence and political instability have tanked Egypt’s tourism industry, a major player in the Egyptian economy. During the Mubarak era, before the Arab Spring of 2011, the police were more or less omnipresent: stationed on most street corners and extremely diligent when it came to snuffing out any sign of public dissent, crime, or infraction. Now though, many view the police as inept, undisciplined, corrupt, or simply absent. Their disappearance from the streets is leaving a power vacuum that is being filled by a crime wave.
In this fraught climate, families and business owners have taken to arming themselves. The porous border with Libya, combined with the widespread looting of police stations during the revolution, has flooded the country with a new stock of weapons. I sat down with Sayed—a lingerie salesman turned arms dealer, based in Port Said—to learn more about Egypt’s burgeoning private gun market.
Nivek Ogre Is Totally Doomed – Skinny Puppy’s Front Man Is Obsessed with Weapons
In addition to logging time with parent-repellers like KMFDM and Ministry, Nivek Ogre (né Kevin Graham Ogilvie) is best known as the guttural screech that is synonymous with Skinny Puppy, who arguably invented electro-industrial in the early 80s. This pedigree, coupled with a history of serious drug use and a penchant for slitting his throat onstage, has led generations of depressed teenagers who are curious about things like Anton LaVey and animal sacrifice to embrace Ogre’s macabre worldview: one in which we are all currently coasting along on a dying sphere, counting down the hours until life on Earth is made impossible due to human stupidity, negligence, and aggression.
This month marks the release of Skinny Puppy’s 15th record, Weapon, which features a giant spider made of guns, bombs, and knives on the cover and a quote from atom-bomb developer J. Robert Oppenheimer in its liner notes. I recently spoke with Ogre about such joyful matters as the Fukushima meltdown, mass murderer Jeffrey Dahmer, and the giant “Machiavellian death shroud” that imprisons us all.
VICE: Here’s an almost stupidly obvious question to start with, but I’m curious: Why did you call your new record Weapon?
Nivek Ogre: I recently came to this weird gestalt in my mind that everything we do has the potential to either harm or cause good. This is a choice we all make with every action. But I view the human being primarily as a weapon, and a lot of the things that we’ve created have had disastrous effects on us as a species. Guns are a tiny element of a much larger iceberg that’s latticed throughout history.
Did the Newtown massacre spark this record?
No, this started way before: March 11, 2011, when Fukushima melted down. It was at that point that I began to view abstract things as weapons. Right now we’re being inundated with a huge amount of radiation, so much so that in April, the EPA relaxed the amounts of radioactive iodine-131 allowed in water in the event of a radiological disaster like Fukushima. It was three picocuries per liter, now it’s 81,000 picocuries per liter. Now here we’ve got a huge Machiavellian death shroud being pulled over people, all based on nuclear power, and the underlying reason for that energy system is a weapons system. My question here is this: What inhuman force could possibly allow this atrocity to take place?
“They hid the guns when they saw an army helicopter,” the interpreter says. “They say they need the guns to protect the remaining tower. They knew we’d take their guns if they told us they had them. They are sorry for this. They want to know if they can keep the IED and show it to their employer.”