This is a follow up to an earlier brief on DIY Rockets and aircraft.
In the 20th Century, guerrilla warfare was a derivative of state vs. state conflict largely due to the dependence of guerrilla groups on nation-states for weapons (or, more accurately, the manufacturing capability necessary to make them). That dependency is rapidly declining as:
- Vast quantities of mothballed Cold War hardware continues to find new uses.
- Grey market manufacturing becomes increasingly available (down to low-cost knock-offs) from a growing number of sources in a hyper-competitive global marketplace.
- DIY (do-it-yourself) weapons, built from scratch using off the shelf parts/knowledge/tools and produced in quantity through cottage industry at low cost, emerge (IEDs, Qassam Rockets, Storm worm, etc.).
My first exposure to a muscular DIY systems was in the early 80's while working on a 1.5 meter rocket with a solid fuel engine (a shaped version of the same fuel used in the Minuteman ICBM). For one of the launches I built a disc camera system with a wireless servo attachment. It took great pictures. There's been LOTs of progress since then, so much more is possible on a shoestring budget. As a result, these systems offer the most headroom for improvements in lethality or effectiveness (which is a constantly moving target), is in weapons built by individuals or small groups using globally accessible knowledge, resources, and tools. In short: DIY weapons. Unfortunately, DIY weapons and the organizational processes necessary to take advantage of it have been vastly accelerated by the catalyst of Iraq. While 9/11 was also a catalyst, however, it is better seen as an anomalous outlier (an early warning of what was possible) since it occurred years before the changes necessary to enable small groups to fight nation-states evolved. Regardless, DIY weapons are now a major factor on the global battlefield, made worse by an ability to improve at rates 20 times faster than what we saw with groups of similar size late in the last century.
WIM (what it means)
We can expect to see these weapons become dominant (in use) in the next decade as they branch out into new areas and begin to take advantage of newly emerging capabilities. For example: personal fabrication that can churn out rockets/UAVs with tight form factors and customized/integrated flight systems -- or -- bioengineered pathogens that use commonly available materials, university sequencing/design software, widely available skills, and labs on a chip. The only limiting factor are the imaginations of the world's guerrilla entrepreneurs. In combination with systems disruption and increases in lethality, the sky's the limit.
NOTE: In contrast, the big defense contractors will find themselves focused increasingly on developing anti-weapons to counter innovations in the DIY space. Not sure they will be flexible enough to pull it off.