Ukraine Is Now Using Steam Decks To Control Machine Gun Turrets

Thanks to a crowdfunding campaign dating back to 2014, soldiers in Ukraine are now using Steam Decks to remotely operate a high-caliber machine gun turret. The weapon is called the “Sabre” and is unique to Ukraine. Motherboard reports: Ukrainian news outlet TPO Media recently reported on the deployment of a new model of the Sabre on its Facebook page. Photos and videos of the system show soldiers operating a Steam Deck connected to a large machine gun via a heavy piece of cable. According to the TPO Media post, the Sabre system allows soldiers to fight the enemy from a great distance and can handle a range of calibers, from light machine guns firing anti-tank rounds to an AK-47.

In the TPO footage, the Sabre is firing what appears to be a PKT belt-fed machine gun. The PKT is a heavy barrelled machine that doesn’t have a stock and is typically mounted on vehicles like armored personnel carriers. It uses a solenoid trigger so it can be fired remotely, which is the cable running out of the back of the gun and into the complex of metal and wires on the side of the turret.

The Sabre system wasn’t always controlled with a Steam Deck […]. The first instances of the weapon appeared in 2014. The U.S. and the rest of NATO is giving Ukraine a lot of money for defense now, but that wasn’t the case when Russia first invaded in 2014. To fill its funding gaps, Ukrainians ran a variety of crowdfunding campaigns. Over the years, Ukraine has used crowdfunding to pay for everything from drones to hospitals. One of the most popular websites is The People’s Project, and it’s there that the Sabre was born. The People’s Project launched the crowdfunding campaign for Sabre in 2015 and collected more than $12,000 for the project over the next two years. It’s initial goal was to deploy 10 of these systems.

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Russian Forces Suffer Radiation Sickness After Digging Trenches and Fishing in Chernobyl

The Independent reports:

Russian troops who dug trenches in Chernobyl forest during their occupation of the area have been struck down with radiation sickness, authorities have confirmed.

Ukrainians living near the nuclear power station that exploded 37 years ago, and choked the surrounding area in radioactive contaminants, warned the Russians when they arrived against setting up camp in the forest. But the occupiers who, as one resident put it to The Times, “understood the risks” but were “just thick”, installed themselves in the forest, reportedly carved out trenches, fished in the reactor’s cooling channel — flush with catfish — and shot animals, leaving them dead on the roads…

In the years after the incident, teams of men were sent to dig up the contaminated topsoil and bury it below ground in the Red Forest — named after the colour the trees turned as a result of the catastrophe… Vladimir Putin’s men reportedly set up camp within a six-mile radius of reactor No 4, and dug defensive positions into the poisonous ground below the surface.

On 1 April, as Ukrainian troops mounted counterattacks from Kyiv, the last of the occupiers withdrew, leaving behind piles of rubbish. Russian soldiers stationed in the forest have since been struck down with radiation sickness, diplomats have confirmed. Symptoms can start within an hour of exposure and can last for several months, often resulting in death.

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US Army Officer Reply-All Email Chain Causes Pandemonium

An anonymous officer writes in an opinion piece via It was the “reply-all” heard around the world. Around 06:30 Eastern time Feb. 2, approximately 13,000 Army inboxes pinged with an email from an unfamiliar sender. It was from a U.S. Army captain, asking to be removed from a distribution list. It initially seemed as though some unfortunate soul had inadvertently hit “reply-all” and made an embarrassing mistake. What followed can really be described only as professional anarchy, as thousands of inboxes became buried in an avalanche of email replies. Someone appears to have unwittingly edited an email distribution list, entitled “FA57 Voluntary Transfer Incentive Program,” routing replies back to the entire list.

Most Army officers receive emails from human resources managers from time to time, usually sent using the blind copy (BCC) address line with replies routed to specific inboxes, preventing someone from accidentally triggering the mayhem that unfolded Feb. 2. The voluntary incentive program list, however, hadn’t been so prudently designed and, in addition to 13,000 Army captains and some newly promoted majors, a single chief warrant officer, a Space Force captain and a specialist began to have their inboxes groan under the weight of inbound traffic. Within a few short hours of the initial email, predictable hilarity ensued. Hundreds of Army captains were sending emails asking to be removed from the distro list. In short order, hundreds of other captains replied, demanding that everyone stop hitting “reply-all” and berating their peers’ professionalism (oblivious to the fact that they were also part of the problem). Many others found humor in the event, writing poems, sending memes and adding snarky comments to the growing dumpster fire. Before long, the ever-popular U.S. Army WTF! Moments Facebook page picked up on the mayhem and posted one of the memes that had been circulating in the email thread.

By 7 p.m. Eastern time, more than 1,000 emails had been blasted out to this massive group of Army officers. Those in different time zones (like Hawaii) came into work and were quickly overwhelmed by the deluge of emails clogging their inboxes. Some of the humorless officers resorted to typing in all caps “PLEASE REMOVE ME FROM THIS DISTRO,” prompting at least two to three sarcastic replies in return. Other captains took the opportunity to blast out helpful (or not so helpful) instructions on how to properly create email sorting rules in Outlook. A few intrepid officers tried to Rickroll everyone, and one even wrote new lyrics to the tune of an Eminem song. A particularly funny officer wrote a Nigerian prince scheme email and blasted it out to the group. Eventually, someone created and shared a Microsoft Teams group to move the devolving conversation to a new forum, quickly amassing more than 1,700 members. What started off as a gloriously chaotic email chain quickly turned into one the largest and most successful professional networking opportunities most of us have ever seen. Officers from multiple branches and functional areas across the globe took to the Microsoft Teams page, sharing useful products, making professional connections, and generally raising everyone’s esprit de corps. The group’s creator even started a petition to promote the one specialist who was inadvertently added to the distro list.

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Pentagon Elects Not To Shoot Down Chinese Spy Balloon Traveling Over Montana

“A Chinese spy balloon is floating over the continental United States,” writes Slashdot reader q4Fry. “As it headed over Montana, ‘civilian flights in the area were halted and U.S. military aircraft, including advanced F-22 fighter jets, were put in the air.'” The Washington Post reports: The balloon’s flight path takes it over “a number of sensitive sites,” the senior [Pentagon] official said, but it appears it does not have the ability collect information that is “over and above” other tools at China’s disposal, like low-orbit satellites. Nevertheless, the Pentagon is taking undisclosed “mitigation steps” to prevent Beijing from gathering additional intelligence.
“We put some things on station in the event that a decision was made to bring this down,” the official said. “So we wanted to make sure we were coordinating with civil authorities to empty out the airspace around that potential area. But even with those protective measures taken, it was the judgment of our military commanders that we didn’t drive the risk down low enough. So we didn’t take the shot.” “The US believes Chinese spy satellites in low Earth orbit are capable of offering similar or better intelligence, limiting the value of whatever Beijing can glean from the high-altitude balloon, which is the size of three buses,” reports CNN, citing a defense official.

“It does not create significant value added over and above what the PRC is likely able to collect through things like satellites in low Earth orbit,” the senior defense official said. Nevertheless, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy called for a briefing of the “Gang of Eight” — the group of lawmakers charged with reviewing the nation’s most sensitive intelligence information.

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Someone Leaked Classified Chinese Tank Schematics To Win an Online Argument

schwit1 shares a report from Task & Purpose: A fan of the popular mechanized combat simulator ‘War Thunder’ shared the specs of China’s Type 99 Main Battle Tank online in order to win an argument over the game. […] The latest incident, first reported by the OSINTtechnical Twitter account, involves information in Mandarin on the penetrator section of a Chinese tank round along with a technical diagram. While many of the original images have been taken down, they were essentially the schematics for a Chinese tank munition, presumably revealed to the world so a video game could more accurately depict what would happen if a Chinese tank and an American tank — or British, French, Russian, German or Israeli tank — met in combat. And this isn’t the first time these forums have become an outlet for technical leaks. […]

The most recent leak, the latest leak, from someone with access to the latest technical manuals from China’s People’s Liberation Army, occurred because a user wanted the game’s Chinese battle tanks to have better in-game stats. While most of the information about the Chinese tank round was already known, it was still apparently more important for one gamer to prove another gamer wrong on a message board than it was to consider the implications of publishing the technical details of military munitions online.

The video game developer, Gaijin Entertainment, banned the user, telling Kotaku that, “Our community managers immediately banned the user and deleted his post, as the information on this particular shell is still classified in China. Publishing classified information on any vehicle of any nation at War Thunder forums is clearly prohibited, and the game developers never use it in their work.”

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What Happened After Russia Seized Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster Site?

The Associated Press files this report from Chernobyl, where invading tanks in February “churned up highly contaminated soil from the site of the 1986 accident that was the world’s worst nuclear disaster…”

“Here in the dirt of one of the world’s most radioactive places, Russian soldiers dug trenches. Ukrainian officials worry they were, in effect, digging their own graves.”

For more than a month, some Russian soldiers bunked in the earth within sight of the massive structure built to contain radiation from the damaged Chernobyl nuclear reactor. A close inspection of their trenches was impossible because even walking on the dirt is discouraged…. Maksym Shevchuck, the deputy head of the state agency managing the exclusion zone, believes hundreds or thousands of soldiers damaged their health, likely with little idea of the consequences, despite plant workers’ warnings to their commanders. “Most of the soldiers were around 20 years old,” he said….

The full extent of Russia’s activities in the Chernobyl exclusion zone is still unknown, especially because the troops scattered mines that the Ukrainian military is still searching for. Some have detonated, further disturbing the radioactive ground. The Russians also set several forest fires, which have been put out.
Ukrainian authorities can’t monitor radiation levels across the zone because Russian soldiers stole the main server for the system, severing the connection on March 2. The International Atomic Energy Agency said Saturday it still wasn’t receiving remote data from its monitoring systems. The Russians even took Chernobyl staffers’ personal radiation monitors….
When the Russians hurriedly departed March 31 as part of a withdrawal from the region that left behind scorched tanks and traumatized communities, they took more than 150 Ukrainian national guard members into Belarus. Shevchuck fears they’re now in Russia. In their rush, the Russians gave nuclear plant managers a choice: Sign a document saying the soldiers had protected the site and there were no complaints, or be taken into Belarus. The managers signed.

The article includes more stories from Chernobyl’s staff:
Even now, weeks after the Russians left, “I need to calm down,” the plant’s main security engineer, Valerii Semenov, told The Associated Press. He worked 35 days straight, sleeping only three hours a night, rationing cigarettes and staying on even after the Russians allowed a shift change. “I was afraid they would install something and damage the system,” he said in an interview….

Another Ukrainian nuclear plant, at Zaporizhzhia in southeastern Ukraine, remains under Russian control. It is the largest in Europe.

Long-time Slashdot reader MattSparkes also notes reports that researchers at Chernobyl “had been looking for bacteria to eat radioactive waste — but they now fear that their work was irreparably lost during the Russian invasion of the facility.”

New Scientist reports (in a pay-walled article) that scientist Olena Pareniuk “was attempting to identify bacteria that could consume radioactive waste within Chernobyl’s destroyed reactor before the Russian invasion. If her samples are lost it will likely be impossible to replace them.”

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The Drone Operators Who Halted Russian Convoy Headed For Kyiv

“Ukrainian special forces teamed up with IT professionals on ATV four-wheelers to target the infamous Kiev convoy,” writes longtime Slashdot reader darkseid. “Every Help Desk Geek’s Walter Mitty fantasy!” The Guardian reports: One week into its invasion of Ukraine, Russia massed a 40-mile mechanized column in order to mount an overwhelming attack on Kyiv from the north. But the convoy of armored vehicles and supply trucks ground to a halt within days, and the offensive failed, in significant part because of a series of night ambushes carried out by a team of 30 Ukrainian special forces and drone operators on quad bikes, according to a Ukrainian commander.

The drone operators were drawn from an air reconnaissance unit, Aerorozvidka, which began eight years ago as a group of volunteer IT specialists and hobbyists designing their own machines and has evolved into an essential element in Ukraine’s successful David-and-Goliath resistance. […] The unit’s commander, Lt Col Yaroslav Honchar, gave an account of the ambush near the town of Ivankiv that helped stop the vast, lumbering Russian offensive in its tracks. He said the Ukrainian fighters on quad bikes were able to approach the advancing Russian column at night by riding through the forest on either side of the road leading south towards Kyiv from the direction of Chernobyl.

The Ukrainian soldiers were equipped with night vision goggles, sniper rifles, remotely detonated mines, drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras and others capable of dropping small 1.5kg bombs. “This one little unit in the night destroyed two or three vehicles at the head of this convoy, and after that it was stuck. They stayed there two more nights, and [destroyed] many vehicles,” Honchar said. The Russians broke the column into smaller units to try to make headway towards the Ukrainian capital, but the same assault team was able to mount an attack on its supply depot, he claimed, crippling the Russians’ capacity to advance. “The first echelon of the Russian force was stuck without heat, without oil, without bombs and without gas. And it all happened because of the work of 30 people,” Honchar said. “The Aerorozvidka unit also claims to have helped defeat a Russian airborne attack on Hostomel airport, just north-west of Kyiv, in the first day of the war,” adds the Guardian. Similar to the convoy ambush, they “[used] drones to locate, target and shell about 200 Russian paratroopers concealed at one end of the airfield.”

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Ukraine Alleges Russia Is Planning ‘Terrorist’ Incident At Chernobyl

According to the latest updates from CNN, Ukraine’s defense ministry claims Russia is planning to carry out “some sort of terrorist attack at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant” and blame Ukraine. The plant is currently without power and under Russian control. From the report: The Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defence claimed on its Facebook page Friday that “the available intelligence says Putin has ordered that his troops to prepare a terror attack at Chernobyl for which the Russian invaders will try to blame Ukraine.” The directorate also repeated that the plant “remains completely disconnected from the monitoring systems run by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).”

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence also alleged Friday that Russian forces had denied a Ukrainian repair team access to Chernobyl. It claimed without offering evidence that “Belarusian specialists” went there posing as nuclear power experts and that Russian saboteurs were arriving to set up a terror attack. The ministry claimed that “without receiving the desired result from the ground military operation and direct talks, Putin is ready to resort to nuclear blackmail of the international community.”

The IAEA said last week that it had not been able to re-establish communication with systems installed to monitor nuclear material and activities at either the Chernobyl or Zaporizhzhia plants following the loss of remote data transmissions from those systems. IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said Thursday that the situation at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, occupied by the Russian forces, was degrading as the IAEA was losing “a significant amount of information” on safeguarding monitoring systems. However, he said he was “quite encouraged […] on one important thing, is that Ukraine and Russian Federation want to work with us, they agree to work with us.” “Both Russia and Ukraine have repeatedly claimed without substantiation that the other side is planning to provoke an incident involving nuclear, chemical or biological agents,” notes CNN.

On Wednesday, Russian’s foreign ministry claimed that the U.S. operates a biowarfare lab in Ukraine, “an accusation that has been repeatedly denied by Washington and Kyiv,” reports Reuters.

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Europe’s Largest Nuclear Power Plant On Fire After Russian Shelling

Russian forces shelled Europe’s largest nuclear plant early Friday in the battle for control of a crucial energy-producing city, and the power station was on fire. The Associated Press reports: Plant spokesman Andriy Tuz told Ukrainian television that shells were falling directly on the Zaporizhzhia plant and had set fire to one of the facility’s six reactors. That reactor is under renovation and not operating, but there is nuclear fuel inside, he said. Firefighters cannot get near the fire because they are being shot at, Tuz said. A government official told The Associated Press that elevated levels of radiation were detected near the site of the plant, which provides about 25% of Ukraine’s power generation. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the information has not yet been publicly released. Tuz said it is urgent to stop the fighting to put out the flames.

Mayor Dmytro Orlov and the Ukrainian state atomic energy company reported that a Russian military column was heading toward the nuclear plant. Loud shots and rocket fire were heard late Thursday. […] Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal called on the West to close the skies over the country’s nuclear plants as fighting intensified. “It is a question of the security of the whole world!” he said in a statement. The U.S. and NATO allies have ruled out creating a no-fly zone since the move would pit Russian and Western military forces against each other.

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