The drones from Wolf Warrior 2.
To date the world’s most successful (non-state) terrorists have only been getting about ~100 kills / death (or capture).
The 9/11 hijackers each killed 2,996/19 = 158 people. Anders Breivik methodically killed 77 people. Brenton Tarrant got 50 while livestreaming it like a video game. Aircraft bombings can take out 100-200 people.
But can these figures go any higher? Let’s do some brainstorming.
Back in 2016, I speculated about attaching gun barrels to drones, and then either operating them manually or coupling them to aimbots and AI recognition software:
A couple of years ago there was a lot of agitation around TrackingPoint, a weapons company that coupled a gun with a tracking system. All you had to do was tag your target, press the trigger, and align the reticle with the tag, which would automatically fire the shot while making adjustments for range, wind conditions, your own motion, etc. Accuracy far exceeds what even the best marksmen are capable of with a traditional rifle and scope outfit. You can also shoot around corners and barricades with special eyeglasses (this was once an exclusively military technology which has now made its way into the civilian market).
Now TrackingPoint’s products aren’t really the sort of weapons you can do a productive rampage with – crucially, it is single shot, and extremely expensive ($20,000) to boot. But it should soon be possible to create far more effective solutions. For instance, a standalone mod that contains a database of common gun models (and maybe the option to input custom data) that you can strap onto any old AK. An accomplice can tag targets remotely through a connected smartphone, or even automate the process entirely on the basis of face recognition. Think of the kind of head shot percentages you can achieve.
Incidentally, just a year later, the Chinese movie Wolf Warrior II featured that idea in their intro scene:
Even more creative solutions can be thought up. Just the sort of stuff you can do by coupling this with drones can provide material for countless cyberpunk stories.
Incidentally, this is the reason why I think that draconian gun control will become the norm throughout the world within the next 2-3 decades, even in the US. Cheap drones and machine learning basically guarantee that.
And, come November 2017, we got this dystopian presentation on “slaughterbots” – mosquito-like drones carrying shaped microcharges that can blow a hole in a human skull – from The Future of Life Institute:
This idea is even more “elegant”, though I am not so sure that it is technologically feasible yet. Any such slaughterbot needs to have enough intelligence for indoor navigation without the use of GPS, and for face recognition. Both tasks are computationally intensive, so we either need much more progress on miniaturization, or a reliable Internet connection to a server (would be funny to be murdered by your WiFi). Also battery longevity might be an issue though miniaturization is progressing fast.
Anyhow, I reckon that once terrorists manage to “master” the drone toolkit, the K/D ratio can go up an order of magnitude into the thousands. Just imagine what a few killbots at a very crowded location, such as a football match or a big protest, can cause.
But while this will be a very bad development, it can’t really change things like global geopolitics, at least insofar as they don’t provoke large-scale military reactions.
For that, we need nukes.
Fortunately, so far as terrorism is concerned, they are not what they’re hyped up to be in the movies. Real nuclear devices are far too closely surveilled for terrorists to make off with them, and far too failsafe to do anything “interesting” with if they do. So-called “dirty bombs”, can create a lot of panic, but they won’t really kill many more – if any at all – in addition to the casualties of the conventional blast that spreads the radioactive isotopes. Consequently, any Sum of All Fears scenarios decidedly lean towards the “fiction” part of science fiction.
However, I think there might be one possible exception in which nuclear terrorism on a truly massive scale becomes possible. Now obviously, I am not any kind of expert on the ins and outs of submarine procedures, nor do I have access to any classified information. So with that caveat out of the way, here goes perhaps the one realistic scheme that a group of especially dedicated and reasonably competent fanatics can carry out to unleash global Armageddon.
Unlike American and Russian SSBNs, the British Vanguard class does not have Permissive Action Links. PALs are devices that are attached to nuclear weapons systems to prevent them from being armed or launched without the insertion of a predetermined code. In the American case, this code is broadcast from the US Chiefs of Staff in the event of nuclear war. But the UK never implemented this. According to the BBC, the Royal Navy thought “it would be invidious to suggest… that Senior Service officers may, in difficult circumstances, act in defiance of their clear orders.”
But suppose that an extremist cell manages to concentrate a few members on a British submarine. The key position may not be the commanding officer, but whichever officer is in charge of the armory (at least in the US, all submarines have Small Arms Lockers, to defend against pirates, polar bears in the Arctic, etc.; I imagine it’s the same on the Vanguard). On a crowded submarine, the rest of the crew will be at the complete mercy of a few armed cell members.
The key question, then, is one of how many people are needed to prep, aim, and launch the missiles. I don’t know the answer to this question, so I would appreciate any informed input. That said, if just 3-4 guys can do that, then the rest of the crew can just be exterminated*. Nobody can hear you scream tens of meters under the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Alternatively, should this require the cooperation of a couple dozen people, then assembling a cell that large is unfeasible and they will have to coerce operations personnel into going along. This is risky, as they might figure out a way to sabotage the operation, or manage to overpower the terrorists.
While the natural response would be to launch those SLBMs at the US, it might be more productive – from the point of view of the terrorists, assuming that they are radical Islamists – to instead blast them at Russia (perhaps save one for China if it’s within range). Crippled Russia will then likely turn most British cities into glass. If the Russian political leadership is successfully “decapitated” – not the most far fetched possibility, given that this attack will come out of the blue – then Russia’s response might even be an automatic strike on the US, dependent on the fine details of its highly classified Perimeter system. Perimeter is a “dead hand” system that is rumored to be capable of automatically launching an annihilating retaliatory strike should the Russian leadership be destroyed. Alternatively, even if Russia only attacks Britain, then the US may become so unnerved that it attempts to launch a decapitating and disarming strike against Russia, with approximately the same global-level results.
Total nuclear exchange between the world’s leading Crusader Powers – what’s not to like?
I am not so sure that the ummah will come out of this so well in the end; setting off an atomic democide will presumably make much of the rest of the world rather negatively inclined towards Islam and Muslims.
But OTOH just think of dat K/D ratio. Just think of the achievements you will unlock.
Anyhow, I really don’t know if this is realistic or not. Probably not. Too much planning, too much persistence, and too much luck (e.g. at least 3-4 people getting assigned to the same boat, inc. one with direct armory access).
Perhaps this one of the good things about more British Muslims electing to fight for Islamic State than to serve in the British Armed Forces.
* Commenter Sean confirms that “just 3-4 of the officers cooperating are required to can launch.”