Category Archives: Unconventional Weapons

The Spetsnaz Ballistic Knife

From the WeaponsMan.com collection: ballistic knife.

From the WeaponsMan.com collection: ballistic knife.

Here’s an item from the Cobwebbed Arms Locker here at Hog Manor. Acquired during the weapon’s brief flowering of legality in the USA in 1984, it was sold as a “Spetsnaz ballistic knife.” Recent research has convinced us what we believed at the time was true, that this knife was a US-made knife intending to capitalize on the “ballistic knife” craze. In this post, we’ll tell you what we’ve learned about these knives, and our still-unsatisfied search to see if Soviet Spetsnaz ever did issue such a toad-stabber.

And yes, we’ll tell you how it works.

The “ballistic knife” hit the weapons world like a cannon shot in 1983 or 1984. In 1978, a series of books by a Soviet defector to Great Britain appeared in the West. The officer, Viktor Belyayev, was a GRU man who had served in the Soviet Army, then in Spetsnaz reconnaissance, then finally as a GRU officer under official cover in Switzerland. He used the pen name “Viktor Suvorov,” the name of a great Tsarist era general and legend of Russian arms whose name honors a series of Russian military academies (including the one the defector graduated from). We get the impression that modesty is not among his traits. In any event, people in the West (especially the US and UK) were always curious about the Soviet Union and its secret organs, and “Suvorov’s” books were very successful. They were well written and, we know now, told both deep truths and fanciful tall tales about the Soviet services.

We were absolutely sure that the first story of the Spetsnaz “ballistic knife” came from Suvorov’s Spetsnaz, but recently reread the book in e-format and even searched for instances of knife with no joy. So where did it come from? We still like him as the source, but wonder if it was a Soldier of Fortune article or something that spawned the Ballistic Knife craze.

Florida Knife Company ballistic 2

Knife identical to ours, from a GunBroker auction.

And craze it was. In a matter of a couple years, the usual foes of liberty in Washington, led by Five Families associate and later-disgraced corrupt senator Alphonse D’Amato (R-NY), had drummed up enough hysteria to push through a bizarrely written Federal ban. Their handmaidens in many state legislatures followed suit, and there is a spotty and uneven ban in effect that has stopped the interstate manufacture and sales of these knives, although “parts kits” are intermittently available. In some states, manufacture for personal use is also banned, and you have to be leery of “constructive possession” statutes and case law. The Federal statute has some exceptions, including for military personnel.

Why any military person would want such a knife is another question. We wanted it because it was a “Spetsnaz knife,” a story which seems to have proven a total fabrication.

(Due to the length of this post — over 2600 words — it continues after the jump, with The History, The Ballistic Knife in Use, Auction Action, and Misinformation and Information subheadings).

Continue reading

The Quiet Special Purpose Revolver

We were sure we’d written about this before, but if we did, we can’t find hide nor hair of our previous report. So, just maybe we haven’t. Recently, we got some new information, and will share it with you.

The QSPR is an extremely rare special-purpose revolver that was developed and produced by the AAI Corporation. Formerly Aircraft Armament Incorporated, the name was abbreviated officially because they never sold any of their aircraft armament concepts. They worked on several ill-fated futuristic small arms of the 1960s (like the SPIW) and one very successful one, the M203 40mm grenade launcher.

The QSPR from the original report (the bad reproduction is due to the records being stored on microfilm or microfche).

The QSPR from the original report (the bad reproduction is due to the records being stored on microfilm or microfche).

The QSPR was made from a Smith & Wesson Model 29. Frames in white were provided to AAI by Smaith, and they were modified with a .40 caliber smoothbore barrel and the cylinders were bored out to 0.528″, leaving a minimal web between chambers. (The lost strength was made up for by the strong cartridges). The weapon was innocent of any sights — it was meant to be used at contact range, inside tunnels, although accuracy to 25 feet was claimed (and Vietnam users reported it was more accurate than their .38 revolvers). Both standard large-frame Smith and aftermarket or custom grips were tried.

The gun was issued with a flap shoulder holster and two ammo pouches holding an odd 7 rounds each.

The gun was issued with a flap shoulder holster and two ammo pouches holding an odd 7 rounds each.

The objective was to provide a weapon for tunnel combat, a weapon with reduced blast, noise, flash and yet increased lethality over the standard pistols and revolvers of the era. It was designed to produce a column of lethal buckshot at very close range, with no flash and very limited blast. Noise in the enclosed tunnels was equivalent to a .22LR firearm outdoors, which was a great improvement over the eardrum-shattering blast of the alternative, the M1911A1 .45 pistol.

Eleven QSPR revolvers were made, of which one was retained by AAI (and is still reportedly retained by a successor, Textron systems). Ten were deployed in 1969 for combat testing in Vietnam; one was reported as a combat loss. Of the existing revolvers, apart from the AAI reference piece, two (#5 and an unknown example) are in a US Army museum, and one is in the ATF reference collection. It was the missing Vietnam gun, which was used in a homicide in California and recovered, according to Dockery.

THE QSPR seems very sophisticated for a first shot, and that’s because it wasn’t. A previous S&W based tunnel revolver was a Model 10 M&P with reduced cylinder gap, a suppressor and an aiming light. It was part of a comprehensive suite of gear assembled by the boffins in the Army’s Land Warfare Laboratory and called the Tunnel Engagement Kit, illustrated here. (The vane switch in the guy’s mouth turned on the VC aiming point on his cranium). You can almost hear them saying, “Do bring it back this time, Mr Bond.” But this bit of lab genius was not what the guys needed, and so the boffins went back to the lab and cooked up the QSPR.

Different tunnel rat rig

Ladies and gentlemen, here is a recent photograph of a unicorn — a live QSPR round. This is believed to be the last and only live round in existence (the ATF caused the destruction of most of them maintained by AAI and the military museum system by declaring them suppressors). The material is high-carbon steel, because the case contains the entire energy of the round, inside a piston. An end cap is screwed on the base of the round; threads in the muzzle end act as a trap to catch a piston. A plastic sheath called a “sabot” wraps around the projectiles and is discarded, much like the sabots used with subcaliber projectiles, when the projectile column exits the muzzle. The muzzle end of the round has a silicone (we think) material applied as a sealant.

QSPR Round 01

The round has a dark finish which appears to be some kind of high-tech proto-melonite coating, although most resources describe the ammo as “blued.”

This is a schematic of the round from what appears to have been the final report on the weapon after development and combat testing in Vietnam. The report recommended further improvements and then general issue to Infantry and Ranger units. Those improvements were not pursued, and the firearm was never manufactured.

qspr_ammo_sketch

The high pressure inside the round breaks the “rim” of the piston free of an annular slot that initially retains the piston in the rearward position and forces it forward, ejecting the sabot-contained shot load, until the pressure snaps the piston rim into a similar annular slot positioned to receive it, and drives the “nose” of the piston into the muzzle-end threads. These two engagements arrest the piston’s forward motion. One purpose of the rearward slot is to retain the pistol and prevent it from sliding and ejecting the payload during normal gun handling.

This is the muzzle end of the round. As you can see, the sabot (or the sealant atop it) comes closer to the muzzle than indicated in the diagram.

QSPR Round 03

This is the breech end. As you can see, there are no markings on the round. The revolvers themselves were marked with the S&W trademark, so we suspect the lack of markings on the ammunition was more a reflection of the toolroom nature of the project than in any attempt to make a deniable or clandestine weapon.

QSPR Round 02

The missing detail from most of the reports, the reason the initial report was classified (albeit only at the Confidential level), and the cause of the QSPRs unusually high terminal effect for a handgun was in a material breakthrough. While most open source reports suggest that the projectiles in the shot column were lead, steel or even tungsten (Wolfram to you Europeans), they were actually depleted uranium.

DU is uranium from which the fissionable isotopes have been removed. It is a side product (a waste product, really) of uranium enrichment for weapons production and has a number of properties making t an excellent choice for projectiles.

While the US was developing the QSPR, Soviet scientists were working on similar captive-piston technology. But in the end, the complexity and cost of the system seems to preclude it from ever being made in more than nominal numbers. The ATF’s Firearms Anti Technology Branch has rendered research on this type of weapon in the USA functionally impossible; Russian designers, who have produced a great many widely varied quiet weapons, seem also to have moved on away from this technology.

The resources below are all worth reading but the most valuable is certainly the official report:

ACTIV QSPR Report OCR .pdf

Sources & Resources

Dockery, Kevin. Tunnel Weapon: The Bang in the Dark. Small Arms Review, Volume 5 Number 9. Retrieved from: http://www.smallarmsreview.com/display.article.cfm?idarticles=2423

Popenker, Maxim. Smith & Wesson / AAI Quiet Special Purpose Revolver / QSPR / tunnel revolver (USA), World.Guns.Ru. Retrieved from: http://world.guns.ru/handguns/double-action-revolvers/usa/qspr-silent-revolver-e.html  Note that Max’s report on the QSPR is pretty accurate but his photoshop job has the barrel a tad too long.

Schreier, Conrad F., Jr. The Silenced QSPR Revolver: An Answer to an Age-old Military Problem. Guns and Ammo Magazine, “Ordnance Department” feature, Guns & Ammo Magazine, October 1971, p. 64. Copy: Guns & Ammo QSPR Article .pdf

Weddington, David E., LTC, IN. Final Report: Tunnel Weapon. Army Concept Team in Vietnam (ACTIV), (Linked above).

 

Will Israel Nuke Iran First?

BLOWING UP PARADISEDefense intellectual and former Strategic Defense Initiative planner John Bosma argues in the American Thinker that for Israel the options are closing rapidly, and the least bad option may be to make a nuclear preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, aiming to disrupt development but also to kill the maximum number of scientists and technicians, and to leave any surviving facilities fatally irradiated.

Far from producing peace, Bosma claims, the deal negotiated between two preferentially antisemitic teams could be extremely destabilizing; it…

…also augurs the possibility of a nuclear war coming far sooner than one could have imagined under conventional wisdom worst-case scenarios. Following the US’s betrayal of Israel and its de facto detente with Iran, we cannot expect Israel to copy longstanding US doctrines of no-first-nuclear-use and preferences for conventional-weapons-only war plans. After all, both were premised (especially after the USSR’s 1991 collapse) on decades of US nuclear and conventional supremacy. If there ever were an unassailable case for a small, frighteningly vulnerable nation to pre-emptively use nuclear weapons to shock, economically paralyze, and decapitate am enemy sworn to its destruction, Israel has arrived at that circumstance.

Why? Because Israel has no choice, given the radical new alignment against it that now includes the US, given reported Obama threats in 2014 to shoot down Israeli attack planes, his disclosure of Israel’s nuclear secrets and its Central Asian strike-force recovery bases, and above all his agreement to help Iran protect its enrichment facilities from terrorists and cyberwarfare – i.e., from the very special-operations and cyber forces that Israel would use in desperate attempts to halt Iran’s bomb. Thus Israel is being forced, more rapidly and irreversibly than we appreciate, into a bet-the-nation decision where it has only one forceful, game-changing choice — early nuclear pre-emption – to wrest back control of its survival and to dictate the aftermath of such a survival strike.

via Articles: Thinking About the Unthinkable: An Israel-Iran Nuclear War.

A limited Israeli strike could produce the nuclear disarmament of Iran that Obama and Kerry had claimed, before some of the terms of the deal put the lie to their statements, that they sought. Nuclear weapons are one effective solution to the underground bunkers used by Iran to shelter its systems.

Israel cannot  service this target set with conventional weapons — its stocks are not deep enough, and it’s clear that they can’t rely on the United States, at least under this Administration, for resupply.

The deliberate American silence over Iran’s genocidal intentionality sends an unmistakable signal to Israel that the US no longer recognizes a primordial, civilizational moral obligation to protect it from the most explicit threats imaginable. It is truly on its own, with the US in an all-but-overt alliance with its worst enemy. The shock to Israel’s leaders of this abrupt American lurch into tacitly accepting this Iranian intentionality cannot be understated. Iran is violating the core tenets of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, a US initiative after the Tokyo and Nuremberg war-crimes trials to codify genocide as a crime against humanity. Now the US is silent.

But this shift is also recent. Every US government prior to President Obama would have foresworn nuclear talks with such a psychopathic regime or would have walked out in a rage upon such utterances. Yet Iran’s genocidal threats have had no discernible effect on Obama’s canine eagerness for a deal.

The two main factors Bosma sees making the nuclear option “almost mandatory” for Israel are the Iranian government’s continued propaganda and doctrine calling for nuclear weapons explicitly for the extermination of Jews, and, as recounted above, the US’s sudden tilt to the Iranian position. But he also lists a number of other reasons, which we’ll paraphrase:

  1. Iranian nuclear progress is self-sustaining and can’t be stopped with conventional weapons or sanctions. For Israel, it is a matter of nuke, or be nuked.
  2. Iranian progress is concrete hardening has essentially neutralized such weapons as the 30kp Massive Ordnance Penetrator, meaning it’s nukes or nothing.
  3. The presence in the agreement of a new US-Iranian limited military alliance targeted against Israel.
  4. The Russian agreement to deliver to Iran S-300 anti-ballistic and anti-aircraft weapons. This dual-purpose weapon is in the improved Patriot class and complicates strike planning (to put it mildly). The weapons are enroute to Iran already. (Russia is also delivering nuclear weapons delivery technology, including ICBMs). Some of these Russian missiles come with Russian mercenary crews. In addition, with Russian and Iranian assistance, the terrorist group Hezbollah has been converting its ineffective rockets into precision guided munitions with defense-evading technology.

While Bosma’s grim predictions may never come to pass, his position has a certain logic. (We believe it won’t come to pass because the Israeli government will shrink from following that logic to its inevitable end). In any event you should Read The Whole Thing™. It’s a brief but very information-dense piece.

If the Israelis did take this approach to survival, how would they do it? Given that the US Government is likely to share any intelligence indicators of a strike with Iran, Israel will have to proceed under an unprecedented cloak of secrecy. But at this point, their very least worst option for the long term survival of Israel and its people may well be to nuke Iran.

This is one consequence of awarding the Nobel Peace Prize for lofty intentions, standing alone.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Handguns of the World

Before we dive into this website, we want to ask you a question: what is the serial number of this Browning Hi-Power?

Numberless Hi-Power L

Oh, you want to see the other side? OK. Here it is:

Numberless Hi-Power

Didn’t find it? That’s because it’s not there. Trick question! This Hi-Power is one of a small (and, we think, unknown and unknowable) number of firearms assembled in the war-wracked FN plant in Liège after Allied forces drove out the German occupiers, who had been merrily building and employing these pistols since the fall of the Low Countries in May 1940. The only markings on this firearm are the marking on the frame in front of the trigger guard, and a single German WaffenAmt marking (WaA140) on the rear of the barrel. Not only is this time capsule innocent of any serial number, it’s also lacking any proof marks (he says… but isn’t that what the trigger guard marking is, a Liège proof?).

This is what the serials would have looked like, had the gun been produced under Nazi inspection a few months or even weeks earlier (image from this forum):

Typical Wartime HiPower Serials

This is one of the guns for sale at David Rachwal’s modestly titled Handguns of the World web site, which is, for those of you with cash on hand, a boutique of collector-quality vintage firearms. If you’re not in spending mode, it’s a worthwhile site for the education and entertainment value alone.

Some of the firearms are mystifying. Here’s an 1869 Bavarian Werder, looking like a prop from Firefly:

1869 WerderWe’ve never heard of that one before, but it’s growing on us.

Here’s a .35 caliber Dreyse needle fire — revolver. We didn’t know a firearm like this existed until pulling it up on David’s site. Obviously it’s a dead end branch of the revolving firearm tree, but no less interesting for that!

Dreyse .35 Needle Fire RevolverIf these are not exotic enough for you, David has a fine and comprehensive collection of Gyro-Jet rocket pistols. These 60s artifacts are extremely rare today. David’s are not for sale but he has graciously shared photographs of them with the public here:

GyroJet_041_1

 

Shortly stated, if you don’t find something you like and something that’s entirely new to you at this website, we’ll be very surprised. On the few things where we have a handle on values, such as Hi-Powers and Walthers, the pricing is reasonable; on everything, the firearms are interesting.

Enjoy!

 

 

Burn, Baby, Burn, With Your Own Flamethrower

We keep seeing vintage flamethrowers come up at auction — they’re interesting weapons, and not being firearms they’re completely unconstrained by Federal or State law, except for two non-fun-loving jurisdictions that ban them, California and Maryland. (How could the legislators of MA, NJ and NY have missed this? Well, they’re totalitarians, but nobody ever said they were competent totalitarians. They tend to be the dissipated nephews of competent totalitarians past, these days). But anyway, these vintage flamethrowers always get bid up to nosebleed territory.

So it was only a matter of time before someone created a modern civilian flamethrower, for the sheer joy of burning stuff. Somebody now has. The question is, would it come in cheaper than the vintage scourge of Iwo Jima?

Naaah… We’ll get to that later.The first question is… does it burn?

It burns.

We’re betting this shows up in an action movie next summer. Because they’ve already demonstrated the most necessary of all Hollywood weapons skills, the dual wield:

This might be just the ticket for those annoying chipmunks or ground squirrels burrowing into your lawn.

Or those damn kids who won’t get off it.

And now for the money.

The X-15 flamethrower is available at a discounted price of $1,600 (from $1750 list). It runs on gasoline, runs better on diesel, and runs best of all with a napalm-like thickening agent that they’ll gladly sell you on their very website, cleverly called throwflame.com.

Here, somewhat tongue in cheek, Jerry Miculek examines its concealed carry potential, complete with “real firearm” and “fire ant” puns.

You know, if people started using these for home defense, criminals would be showing up with some interesting mugshots.

Anybody else have, uh, a burning desire for one of these gadgets?

Five Depressing Developments on the OPM Data Compromise

1: How Did It Happen? Well, Why Did Your Car With The Top Down, Keys In, Parked in Da Hood Get Stolen?

The OPM Logo: an eagle being stretched on a rack, or maybe drawn and quartered.

The OPM Logo: an eagle being stretched on a rack, or maybe drawn and quartered.

First, here’s Charlie Martin on why it happened:

Someone, somewhere, decided that they didn’t want to spend the money: undoubtedly they had budget constraints.

So the sensitivity of the data wasn’t properly identified, passwords were used instead of a stronger scheme, the systems involved had “superuser” or “root” accounts that by definition have access to everything, and the users who had access to those root accounts were Chinese nationals in China, who — I think we can fairly say — didn’t meet the U.S. government’s standards for computer security.

Perhaps the biggest issue of all is that the government had centralized the collection of that data into a single web-based system, e-QIP, which means that all this data was collected in one place.

I would bet money that each of these decisions came down to someone saying: “Oh, that’s too hard,” “Hiring offshore workers is cheaper,” “That’s too inconvenient.”

At each of those steps, some security was lost because someone decided it was easier to relax the requirements than to get the more expensive and annoying solution. And while the inspector general was calling out the hazards, no one was willing to rock the boat.

It’s worth it to Read The Whole Thing™ — Charlie’s been around long enough to see a Death March software project or two — but the bottom line seems to be, because OPM secured it like the Last Guy Still Using AOL® secured his cute-kitten .jpg files.

2: Nobody Knows How Big The Numbers Are — Because Execs Are Lying

Second, there are some new numbers, and we’re expecting the release of even larger numbers Friday (too late for the evening news). We’ve seen the numbers build from 2.9 to 4 to 14 to 18 to 29 to 32 Million. It gets hazy fast. For instance:

  • OPM Director Katharine (“Fat, Incompetent and Stupid is so a way to go through life”) Archuleta, selected for that job by the usual process of Washington racial/ethnic/sex beancounting, insisted that the agency’s final number was 4.2 million. At the same hearing, an FBI officer, Acting Assistant Director for Cyber James Trainor, stood by the Bureau’s 18 million estimate, briefed earlier to Senators by FBI Director James Comey. Trainor, unlike Archuleta, showed his work: an OPM memo, exposing Archuleta as either an incomptent, a liar, or (the smart money says) an incompetent liar.
  • House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, brought up the 32 million number. However, that’s just the cleared personnel and applicants that OPM has mishandled data for; each person’s 150-page questionnaire or electronic equivalent also exposes the data of numerous other persons (references, employers and supervisors, family members, foreign friends) and, more alarmingly yet, the threads that form the skein of relationships of all those people have also been exposed to a hostile intelligence service.

Of course, their defense is, they’re not lying, they’re just so wrapped up in their own red tape they can’t generate diddly.

what OPM usually does

But the bottom line is this: if you have completed an SF 86 paper security questionnaire or the replacement Electronic Personnel Security Questionnaire (EPSQ) on e-QIP at any time since the early or mid-1980s, you had best assume your secrets are secrets no more.

OPM did not investigate all DOE clearances, so if you had a nuclear clearance but not a DOD one,  your information may be safe.

3: They Say They’re Not Lying Now; Forget Lie They Got Caught In Already

Third, the data was exposed as early as 2013 and the OPM senior executives cooperated, de facto, with the hostile intelligence service by minimizing and concealing the extent and seriousness of the breach then. CNN again (emphasis ours):

The roots of the recent OPM breach could be traced to an earlier 2013 OPM breach, investigators now believe. At the time, OPM officials minimized what was taken by hackers, who are believed to be the same responsible for the latest breach. But it turned out what was taken provided blueprints to the OPM network, valuable information for future intruders.

At Wednesday’s House Oversight hearing, Donna Seymour, the agency’s chief information officer, said that in the 2013 breach, hackers took “some manuals about our systems.”

Asked if those manuals were akin to blueprints of OPM’s computer systems, Seymour answered, “It would be fair to say that would give you enough information that you could learn about the platform, the infrastructure of our system, yes.”

Seymour called it a breach of security.

But that contrasts with earlier statements by OPM officials.

What do you think… are they lying now, or were they lying then? Does what we should do with them change based on the answer to this question? (What should we do with them? And should it involve tar, feathers, fire, a trebuchet, and easy assembly instructions?)

In a 2014 interview with WJLA-TV in Washington about the 2013 breach, Archuleta minimized the damage.

“I can tell you the most important piece: No personal identification information was compromised,” she said. “That’s the most important thing. That happened because of the good work and dedication of our employees.”

About the 2013 breach, Archuleta added: “Again, we did not have a breach in security. There was no information that was lost. We were confident as we worked through this that we would be able to protect the data.”

She’s right about one thing: this has happened because of the good work and dedication of her and her employees. Although we’re not sure what the adjective “good” is doing in there.

But it now looks like they didn’t just minimize the response. They deliberately misrepresented the scope and scale of the compromise, according to the Wall Street Journal (requisite Google Search if you’re paywalled out).

The Obama administration for more than a week avoided disclosing the severity of an intrusion into federal computers by defining it as two breaches but divulging just one, said people familiar with the matter.

But:

An OPM spokeswoman said the agency had been “completely consistent’’ in its accounting of the data breach.

Well, yeah, she and her agency have been completely consistent. They’ve consistently lied. Example? Here’s one from that same article:

A day after the public announcement, an OPM spokesman said there was “no evidence to suggest that information other than what is normally found in a personnel file has been exposed.’’ By that time, the FBI already knew—and told OPM—that security-clearance forms had been tapped, officials said.

You can tell when Archuleta and Co. lie. Their lips move.

4: Did You Hear The One About The Screwed-Up Response?

Fourth, when the OPM went to notify even the initial 4.2 million victims they admit having, they botched it all over again, using a wildly insecure and unverified email system. (Hardly a surprise. Most key OPM systems were and are running with no or self-generated encryption and signing certificates). According to Navy Live (an official DOD site):

OPM began conducting notifications to affected individuals using email and/or USPS First Class mail on June 8, 2015. Recognizing the inherent security concerns in this methodology, with OPM and CSID support, DoD suspended notifications to employees on June 11, 2015, until an improved, more secure notification and response process is in place. Late June 15, 2015, OPM advised that email notification resumed. Email notifications should be complete by June 22, 2015. U.S. Postal mail notifications will take longer.

By the way, here’s what an email fraud alert for the crapola lowest-bidder “credit monitoring” service OPM bought no-bid from some crony and is force-feeding to victims looks like:

hacker_insurance_alert

Yeah, just like a Nigerian scam!

Are that company’s servers as secure as OPM’s (which is to say, not terribly?) Or do you just get hacked yourself if you’re dumb enough to click the Log In Now button in a shady-smelling email like this? Click that red button and you may just find out. (Not here of course. Here it is just a harmless picture. We think).

5: FLEOA’s Recommendation Doesn’t Work

Fifth, here is what is happening when federal Special Agents, intelligence agency staff and contractors, and other cleared personnel call up the credit bureaux about their records, they’re getting blown off. As one disillusioned Fed put it to us:

The credit companies have so many calls from government employees for fraud alerts that they want you to go online and do it. They do not want your call.

At first, the staff at Experian, TransUnion, etc., may have fielded the calls personally, but soon the party line was “Don’t waste time on Federal employees and contractors.” Those unfortunates should not expect personal service; after all, the credit resellers aren’t getting paid for helping victims of enemies foreign (hackers) and domestic (OPM brass). Instead, some outfit you never heard of got a huge no-bid contract to further surveil you. (Wonder if there’s a kickback to the OPM panjandrums).

“Hang up and order a credit report online.” Click.

Soon, the firms’ initial voicemail menus were changed to cut hack victims off before even getting to that point. When you dial in, before you get the voice menu, you’re told not to bother calling the telephone line, if you’re an OPM victim. They can’t stop you from getting your one statutory credit report per year, but they can make it as difficult as they like — and they do.

The Bottom Line

OPM, after doing just about everything they could do to give away the security data, now is finger-pointing, to the extent it’s doing anything. (Hey, you can’t interfere with the 10 AM-3 PM Federal workday with a two-hour lunch. That’s an entitlement for these drones). They haven’t even updated their own data breach information page since the 23rd — two full days ago.

Director Archuleta seems to think that these so-called “workers” are more useful to the taxpayers than the same number of empty chairs. Where’s the evidence for that proposition?

She also thinks that OPM has been a good steward of secret and sensitive information. On which planet, in which galaxy, does this remarkable condition obtain? Not, we submit, on ours.

She has decided, to the extent this idle bag of suet decides anything, that what the OPM really needs to recover from this Grand Slam of Beltway hackery is to hire another Beltway tusker, to be called a “Cybersecurity Advisor.”

Sounds like a job for Jamie Gorelick.

The Magic Rucksack

In Special Forces from 1960 to the mid-1980s, there was a capability called, among other things, “the Magic Rucksack.” (This weapon, and its mission, were prolific producers of slang and nicknames, most of which were as compartmented as the mission itself; it’s unlikely anyone knows them all). It was the Special Atomic Demolition Munition, SADM, a small nuclear fission weapon with a W54 selectable-yield warhead, detonated by timers. It was the smallest of a series of ADMs that specialist Army engineer units trained with.

This is the Medium ADM, "field-stripped." Components of the SADM were similar, but smaller.

This is the Medium ADM, “field-stripped.” Components of the SADM were similar, but smaller.

It fit a very, very narrow target niche. While the engineers’ wartime mission was to use their ADMs to channelize advancing forces into artillery and air “kill boxes” (any Ivans they actually nuked were not the main objective, but what a fisherman might call “bycatch”), to justify an SF SADM emplacement the target had to meet certain criteria. If you think about it, you can probably come close to what they actually were.

  1. Payoff. It had to justify being targeted with a <1-1kt nuke;
  2. Deep. Deeper behind enemy lines than artillery could reach; and,
  3. Not a good target for an air raid.
  4. Target placement achievable by SF ODA.

There were two ways to carry it, in its own container, which felt like it was designed by some pointy-headed nuclear physicist who’d never carried anything on his back in his life, or wrapped in a sleeping bag or poncho liner inside an ALICE or mountain rucksack (depending on period).  There was also a transit case for administrative transit; there’s no scale in this picture, but it was too bulky for field use by far.

Transit Case.

Transit Case.

This video is sometimes presented as SEALs or Marines, but it was a joint Army/Navy exercise. The men preparing the SADM for aerial delivery are wearing 1950s-60s Army uniforms and were probably engineer officers and NCOs from Sandia Labs.

SADMAs you might imagine, security around the weapon was heavy with even its existence being classified. Teams selected for SADM duty were given additional security clearances and briefings, and underwent considerable classroom training, including usage and employment information as well as hands on assembly/disassembly of mock-ups and simulators. There was never a full-mission-profile test with an actual warhead. Indeed, most SADM team members never saw an actual SADM, only simulators.

The M46 simulator matched the weight, bulk, awkwardness and shape of the actual weapon, and contained timers that worked about like the ones in the real weapon, except for the world-shattering Kaboom! at the end.

kaboomEven the simulator was a classified device. A classified manual described the usage, effects, tactical employment, and technical features of the weapon, and provided real timer drills; a companion, unclassified manual provided practice with the math and timers of a slightly different, notional ADM.

The security was breached by CBS News in the 1980s, and they aired a short film clip of a 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group SADM team in training in 1986. By that time, though, the writing was on the wall for the Magic Rucksack.

The SADM was probably a more fitting component of the battlefield mix in 1960 than it was by 1985. Precision-guided munitions such as cruise missiles were capable of hitting a lot of targets more exactly, and with less risk of interception, than a team of men crunching through the woods.

Moreover, by the mid-1980s, environmental problems had forced the shutdown of several  US nuclear-weapons facilities, some temporarily, some permanently. With scarcity arriving the same time that tactical and strategic nuclear modernization called for new warheads, the recycling of the fissionable material from the SADM’s W54 warheads was inevitable.

There are constant rumors that the SADMs were stored. That might actually be the case with some components of them, but it’s more likely the components were destroyed. (The same fate befell the engineers’ three sizes of ADMs). The fissionable material, the heart of any nuclear weapon, was needed elsewhere, and that more than anything wrote finis to the 25-plus-year saga of the Special Atomic Demolition Munition.

VPO-208: Russian Gunsmiths Respond to Russian Law

We’re familiar, here in the USA, with weapons that are shaped by US gun laws. We have a variety of weird and wonderful arms that exist only because of the Gun Control Act of 1968, the National Firearms Act of 1934, and the patchwork of implementing regulations and executive orders that have shaped the US market. In addition, state assault-weapon band have resulted in oddities like California’s “Bullet Buttons.” A wide range of legislatively-midwifed Frankenguns, from the Walther PPK/S, to short barreled rifles, to pistols with SIG braces, reflect the degree to which designers are constrained by the gun-designing impulses of American politicians and bureaucrats.

It should come as no surprise that the same thing happens in other countries with large gun markets. This case in point comes to us from Russia, where gun laws are generally stricter than in the United States. There, no one can own a pistol. Most citizens can own a shotgun; but to own a rifle you have to have owned the shotgun without incident for five years.

So here comes the VPO-208: an SKS shotgun.

SKS in .366Produced by Techcrim, an Izhevsk manufacturer, the .366 by Russian measure, across the lands (.375 by ours, across the grooves), is a smoothbore or near-smoothbore gun that gets the would-be gun owner into a semi-automatic, service rifle platform, while staying within the letters of Russian law.

The ammunition appears to be made from fireformed 7.62 x 39mm casings, and is available in a range of sporting projectiles, plus a shotshell variant.

It is reminiscent of such American wildcats (some of them since turned production) as the small-head .300 Whisper, .300 AAC Blackout, .338 Spectre, and the Mauser-head-sized .375 Reaper, all of which run in the AR-15 platform. It just goes to show that this kind of innovation is hardly an American monopoly.

The first table in the advert below has three columns: “Type of projectile”; “Speed, meters per second;” and “Energy, Joules”. Here’s our conversion of this table.

Projectile Type Velocity, m/s Energy, J Velocity, fps Energy, ft-lb
LSWC poly coat 13.5 grams 640 2765 2099 2039
FMJ 11 grams 700 2618 2296 1931
FMJ 15 grams 620 2883 2034 2126
JSP 15 grams 620 2883 2034 2126

Techkrim

 

As the shot of the fired JSP shows, and these velocity and energy tables suggest, it would actually be a good short-range hunting round.

The second table, with the bullet-drop diagram, is, “Velocity and Energy of Projectile, .366 TKM with 15-gram FMJ bullet”. Here’s our translation and unit conversion.

Metric (SI) Values Muzzle 50 meters 100 meters
Bullet Drop mm 0 35 125
Velocity m/s 625 570 520
Energy J 2837 2437 2028
English Values Muzzle 50m 100m
Bullet Drop in. 0 1.38 4.92
Velocity f/s 2050 1870 1706
Energy ft/lb. 2092 1797 1495

The problem with the gun is its accuracy, as it’s basically a smoothbore. Hyperprapor suggests that it might be minute-of-E-silhouette at 100m.

But hey, it will let some Russian guys own the rifle their nation’s color guards parade with, and even let them shoot it, all with the reduced paperwork and hassle of a shotgun; perhaps a big win for them.

There are no ballistics for the shotshell, which exists, we suspect, primarily to navigate the channels of Russian weapons law. (This law does seem somewhat liberalized since Soviet days). Techcrim’s website shows that they are very active in small-caliber (.410) shotguns and shells, which seem to have more of a following in Russia than they do here. We wonder if that’s an artifact of Russian law, too.

We saw this on r/guns, posted by our old friend hyperprapor, who notes that under Russian law “paradox rifling”  is legal if it’s under 150mm long (About 5.9″).  Paradox rifling is rifling that was just engraved in the last few inches of the bore of what was otherwise a shotgun, to give it some capability with a single ball or bullet. It was named by English bespoke gunmaker Holland and Holland, who adopted the patent from GV Fosbery of Webley-Fosbery fame. Westley Richards called it “Explora” but other makers seem to have stuck with the paradox name.

And this is definitely one for the “how weird does it get” file — a smoothbore SKS that is one short hop removed from the Webley-Fosbery Automatic Revolver!

How to Launch a Lethal Projectile?

FOOM!Western Civilization’s best answer to the question in the title has been, since approximately the return of Marco Polo to Europe with this stuff, gunpowder: that is, a chemical reaction inside a confined space with a single outlet for the projectile, and the pressure. But that’s not the only answer. And there are reasons you might not wish to use gunpowder. Chemical propellants take some engineering to be safe, reliable, and capable of being stored (the fixed round of ammunition, holding and protecting the propellant in a sealed container capable of being weatherproofed, was a great leap forward in all these areas). Chemical propellants also have thermal, visual, and audible signatures that might be undesirable in some weapons applications.

Of course, before Polo, there were already several answers to the problem, but they basically came down to muscle power, the original projectile launch method that goes back to Cain and Abel, or stored energy (which itself takes many forms: springs, elastic bands, the bent arms of a bow, or the counterweight of a trebuchet. In ancient times, man or animal muscle had to provide the energy to be stored, by stretching the band, bending the bow, or lifting the counterweight). In more recent years, other ways of “sending a message” have become possible, if not yet entirely practical: electromagnetic rail guns, or even the lensed nuclear weapons envisioned in the 1980s for the Strategic Defense Initiative.

In World War II, the OSS wanted the National Defense Research Committee (NRDC), a gathering of eggheads led by Harvard’s former head James Conant, to address the question of projectile launching, starting at first principles, with the objective of producing silent weapons. Stanley P. Lovell, a former NRDC guy who’d been transferred to OSS to help the nascent spy and sabotage agency develop the specialty equipment such missions required, drafted the initial requirement, complete with an innocuous cover name:

No. 1 – Impact Testing Machine

You are directed to study, and if possible produce, a gun having the approximate following military characteristics:

  1. Silent
  2. Flashless
  3. Muzzle velocity of 1000 ft./s.
  4. Maximum calibre bullet compatible with a, B, and C, preferably 50-calibre.
  5. Minimum reloading time, preferably under 30 seconds.

The project may conceivably eventuate as two weapons, one for relatively long-range sentry assault, the other as a personal short-range weapon. The US Armed Forces prefer the former and there are indications that our Allies wish both types of arms.

A projectile launched with those ballistic figures would have competed well with the handguns of the day. As it happened, the NRDC did a great deal of research, beginning from first principles and concluding that crossbows using energy storage in then-modern elastics might be the best answer to Requirement No. 1 and subsequent requirements. Research done, the OSS and its academic tinkerers went on to develop crossbows and other projectile throwers ranging in size from a small pistol to a mortar equivalent.

OSS William Tell

OSS William Tell “crossbow” that used many small elastics. This approach turned out to be better than one large one, or bent wood or metal.

None of these devices seems to have been used in action, and very few if any got to the field. The handful produced seemed to succumb to OSS’s celebrity culture, being demonstrated to everybody and his brother (including, one legend goes, to FDR in the Oval Office by Donovan Himself), and piled up in every intermediate headquarters of the organization to the extent that what the field got, as far as “silent” weapons are concerned, were relatively conventional pistol suppressors (2,500 fielded) and suppressed barrel units for the M3 submachine gun (5,000).

Requirement No. 1 would be coded SAC-1 for the first requirement issued by the “SAndeman Club,” a requirments committee whose full name was the “Directors’ Committee for Cooperation with Special Government Agencies.” SAC-1 would indeed produce a working, if not fielded, silent weapon, the Impact Testing Machine, Spring Type aka The Dart Thrower. SAC-14 would produce the better-known OSS firearms silencers. Other “silent, flashless weapons” included:

  • SAC-13, “Penetrometer,” a long-range crossbow.
  • SAC-36, “Tree Gun”, a silent mortar-equivalent with a planned 250-yard range;
  • SAC-46, “Flying Dragon,” which produced a CO2 pistol procured in limited numbers (it turned out to be louder than the suppressed Hi-Standard .22).

An offshoot of this research produced the Bigot dart system and actually procured 25 guns and 300 darts, almost all of which had been lost, strayed or written off by V-J Day.

The bows and projectors had fanciful names: Joe Louis, Little Joe, Big Joe, William Tell. They weren’t entirely silent, generating about 80 dB (although the protocol for measurement is unknown).

The story of the OSS Crossbows is told in The OSS Crossbows by  John W. Brunner, PhD, with copious use of original documents from the National Archives and a decent quantity and quality of illustrations (especially when considering that the archival material has partly been reduced to microfiche, which is terribly destructive of photographs). That book is the principal source of this post. The publisher, Phillips Publications of Williamstown, NJ doesn’t have a website but may answer 609-567-0695; they have published numerous high-quality histories of spy weapons and technology. The author has his own website and has a few copies of the paperback to offer; ours came from the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, NC.

A French enthusiast of crossbows built a copy of one of the larger handheld projectors, the Big Joe 5.

arba_bigjoe_big

One wonders what could be done today, with such a general tasking as SAC-1. Certainly we have materials that were unavailable in 1942, from composites with controlled layout of reinforcements to enormously improved synthetic elastomers. The most widely issued silent weapons today are Russian and Chinese devices based on a US system designed as a Tunnel Rat weapon for the Vietnam War but then abandoned at war’s end. These weapons used chemical energy, but contain the chemical inside the cartridge or at least the weapon, with nothing being vented to the atmosphere.

Cyber Strategy, Two Takes

Fun fact: more work seems to have gone into this cover image than the document inside.

Fun fact: more work seems to have gone into this cover image than the document inside.

First, here’s the unclassified Official Cyber Strategy of the USA, signed by Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Initial take: the guy really is an empty suit, stuffed with Beltway entitlement, and serving various constituencies, with the national defense of the USA not as prime as it probably ought to be here.

(U) DoD Cyber Strategy 2015, 17Apr15.pdf

Here’s how Carter (and his underlings, more Beltway homesteaders without a real-world accomplishment to their names) define the cyber threat on p. 9 of the document:

From 2013-2015, the Director of National Intelligence named the cyber threat as the number one strategic threat to the United States, placing it ahead of terrorism for the first time since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Potential state and non-state adversaries conduct malicious cyber activities against U.S. interests globally and in a manner intended to test the limits of what the United States and the international community will tolerate. Actors may penetrate U.S. networks and systems for a variety of reasons, such as to steal intellectual property, disrupt an organization’s operations for activist purposes, or to conduct disruptive and destructive attacks to achieve military objectives.

So what’s wrong with this? Here’s one: defining the military cyber threat to include commercial hackers and disruption of non-government “organizations.” No one who’s au courant with the cyber threat thinks that DOD has its own networks under control, so this attempt to subordinate DOD’s cyber defense activities to big and inept corporations like Sony, not incidentally among the owners ofthe donors to Carter’s political sovereigns, turns defense resources to private profit and distracts them from national defense. No, defending Sony is not an American defense interest. Hell, it’s not even a US corporation; why should we give

Oh, we forgot. Sony bought and paid formade substantial donations to the President and the other officeholders to whom Carter really holds his fealty, rather than to the quaint old Constitution to which he swore an insincere oath.

Let’s continue with Carter, and see if he gets any better:

Potential adversaries have invested significantly in cyber as it provides them with a viable, plausibly deniable capability to target the U.S. homeland and damage U.S. interests. Russia and China have developed advanced cyber capabilities and strategies. Russian actors are stealthy in their cyber tradecraft and their intentions are sometimes difficult to discern. China steals intellectual property (IP) from global businesses to benefit Chinese companies and undercut U.S. competitiveness. While Iran and North Korea have less developed cyber capabilities, they have displayed an overt level of hostile intent towards the United States and U.S. interests in cyberspace.

The first sentence is one key to cyber: it’s a plausibly-deniable act of war,  which is why all major powers (Russia, China, and not incidentally the USA) maintain an advanced persistent threat capability. This administration in particular is in love with the concepts of deniable, technical, literally “dehumanized” as in humans-out-of-the-loop and not at risk, technical war. It’s reminiscent of the disastrous Stansfield Turner days at CIA, when Turner played to the agency’s Polyphemos. “Noman has blinded me!” cries the agency at the inevitable “intelligence failure” result, in Turner’s case including the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the Iranian revolution. Although he seems intent on recreating the bleak Cy Vance/Stan Turner days of his namesake President, this Secretary of Defense is unrelated to Jimmy Carter in anything.

This Air Force pro is a commo guy, not a cyber guy, but they needed him to meet some quota in the document.

This Air Force guy, A1C Nate Hammond, is a commo guy, not a cyber guy, but they needed him to meet some quota in the document.

Well, except in ineptitude. If there is a brotherhood of bozos, maybe with a secret handshake or password/countersign (“Are you a turdle?”), these guys are both life members.

Again, that the Chinese state steals IP is not exactly novel, and the Chinese are not alone; some of our allies do the exact same thing (cough, France, Israel, cough). The US, for that matter, does steal foreign technical data, the difference is, we don’t steal for order for private industry.

It is a defense matter when foreign nations steal defense material from the military or defense contractors. We’re not big on defining things as crimes rather than acts of war or terrorism, but stealing from Sony, for example, or General Electric, is not an act of war, no matter how much money those corporations sluice to Carter’s owners and overseerssuperiors.

In addition to state-based threats, non-state actors like the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) use cyberspace to recruit fighters and disseminate propaganda and have declared their intent to acquire disruptive and destructive cyber capabilities. Criminal actors pose a considerable threat in cyberspace, particularly to financial institutions, and ideological groups often use hackers to further their political objectives. State and non-state threats often also blend together; patriotic entities often act as cyber surrogates for states, and non-state entities can provide cover for state-based operators. This behavior can make attribution more difficult and increases the chance of miscalculation

Well, it’s nice to see some awareness of ISIL penetrating the thick skulls of the E-Ring, but what they’re calling a cyber threat is simply an information operations (IO) effort that is superior to that of the United States. And as long as we have IO run by giggling PR dollies, and counter ISIL guns and swords with feeble hashtags, we’re #screwed.

Diverse services -- check. Diverse sexes -- check. Diverse races and ethnicities -- check.  Can they fight? Who cares!

Diverse services — check. Diverse sexes — check. Diverse races and ethnicities — check.
Can they fight? Who cares!

You could fisk the whole thing like this. Its full of yes-hope-is-a-method naïveté, like considering the Chinese threat badly punished because we indicted five PLA members for stealing IP. (We’re sure they’re shaking in their shoes. Either that or the new guys have redoubled their efforts because an indictment is the new most-coveted achievement in Chinese cyber — more likely). It’s also full of carefully-staged “college pamphlet” or “annual report” photos of perfectly-diverse cybernauts — selected for just the “right” mix of joint-service uniforms, DOD civilians, and skin-tone diversity. In other words, it’s all full of that which proceeds from the north end of a south-facing male bovine.

Naturally, there’s a new bureaucracy to be built, under a towering buzzword, the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, and more SES and political appointee jobs, like the Office of the Principle Cyber Advisor to the SecDef, which will oversee the Cyber Investment and Management Board, which will operate a senior executive forum and coordinate for something called the Deputy’s Management Action Group. It’s all process, with all these Beltway drones memo-ing one another.

Wait. We said, “Two takes”, in the title. What’s the other take on cybersecurity?

Well, here’s the NATO cyber team.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The whole team.  (Well, actually there are six men, so they can field two of these three-man teams. Feel better?).

That sound you hear is chortling in Chinese.