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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Libyan rebels's DIY weapon workshop is a sad combo of "Lawrence of Arabia" meets "Mad Max"

Posted by Alex_Pasternack


This really puts the whole DIY-maker-homebrew thing in perspective: Libya’s rebels aren’t just working with a hijacked cell phone network, but hobbling together their own weapons out of discarded military stockpiles. As this Al Jazeera report shows, they’re welding their own rocket launch platforms, affixing helicopter guns to pick-up trucks, and builidng missile firing controls out of light switches.

The ramshackle weaponry is a testament to the ingenuity and determination of the Libyan people, but even with the help of NATO airstrikes, it won’t be enough to destroy the regime. And as The Times’ C.J. Chivers reports, the whole post-apocalyptic weaponry idea is dangerous too. Rebel mechanics aren’t just unfamiliar with the ins-and-outs of say, a 57-millimeter rocket: they’re not very expert at aiming them either. The weapons haven’t done much to deter the military, but they have likely driven up civilian casualties and friendly-fire incidents. “Many Libyan rebels – more spirited than experienced – nonetheless approve of their rocket brigades,” writes Chivers. “With their almost sci-fi aesthetic, and the tremendous noise and show they make when fired, they are a morale-booster for troops who know little of effective tactics or of how modern weapons actually work.”

If the European and American forces really want to oust Gadaffi but won’t send the fresh weapons the rebels need (especially after a nasty fire that decimated one of their stockpiles), perhaps someone could start a Kickstarter campaign to send some hardcore tinkerers or This Old House fanatics to the desert. Firepower and precision is nice, but nothing says dogged persistence – and desperation – quite like a homebrew mecha with a flamethrower for an arm.