It's the 21st century all right.
The South African National Defence Force "is probing whether a software glitch led to an antiaircraft cannon malfunction that killed nine soldiers and seriously injured 14 others during a shooting exercise on Friday."
"It appears as though the gun, which is computerised, jammed before there was some sort of explosion, and then it opened fire uncontrollably, killing and injuring the soldiers. ... a female artillery officer risked her life... in a desperate bid " to save members of her battery from the gun."
But the brave, as yet unnamed officer was unable to stop the wildly swinging computerised Swiss/German Oerlikon 35mm MK5 anti-aircraft twin-barrelled gun. It sprayed hundreds of high-explosive 0,5kg 35mm cannon shells around the five-gun firing position. By the time the gun had emptied its twin 250-round auto-loader magazines, nine soldiers were dead and 11 injured.
And here's a little snippet of non-sequitur. What, no error log?
Other reports have suggested a computer error might have been to blame. Defence pundit Helmoed-Römer Heitman told the Weekend Argus that if “the cause lay in computer error, the reason for the tragedy might never be found."
Fortunately the media interviewed somebody who had his own human memory "error log", albeit of different systems.
Electronics engineer and defence company CEO Richard Young says he can't believe the incident was purely a mechanical fault. He says his company, C2I2, in the mid 1990s, was involved in two air defence artillery upgrade programmes, dubbed Projects Catchy and Dart.
During the shooting trials at Armscor's Alkantpan shooting range, “I personally saw a gun go out of control several times,” Young says. “They made a temporary rig consisting of two steel poles on each side of the weapon, with a rope in between to keep the weapon from swinging. The weapon eventually knocked the pol[e]s down.”
Automated weapons systems aren't foolproof. "On Sunday July 3, 1988, towards the end of the Iran Iraq War, the aircraft flying IR655 was shot down by the U.S. Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes between Bandar Abbas and Dubai, killing all 290 passengers and crew aboard, including 38 non-Iranians and 66 children. The Vincennes was inside Iranian territorial waters at the time." [a reader notes that the Vincennes incident was really human erro.]