Once merely the hub of office gossip, the humble water cooler has been weaponized to fight terrorists.
Under development by Welsh company BCB International and known in the security circuit as the "wall breaker" or "wall breaching cannon," the water cooler cannon uses a typical water cooler jug as the cannonball, so to speak. The weapon can punch man-sized holes through walls as thick as double-skinned concrete.
Designed for police, military, special forces and fire department personnel, the cannon can break through a solid wall as well as blast through the floor, a high window or a ceiling, according to BCB International. The company's Web site describes itself as a "long established designer & manufacturer of quality survival & protective equipment, based in Cardiff, South Wales."
• Click here to view BCB International pictures of the cannon tearing through brick walls (pdf).
Using only compressed air, no explosives, the cannon can fire a standard 44.5-pound drinking water container. It can lob heavier containers filled with sand, gravel or concrete powder to increase penetration. Recharged and reloaded in seconds, it fires up to four shots in 60 seconds.
For all you frat boys thinking no self-respecting fraternity could live without a keg cannon, I can confirm that, yes, beer, too, is a cannon ball-loading option — but be forewarned that you’ll need at least two pledges to carry the cannon.
The cannon can be wheel-mounted, but at 350 pounds, a solo operator would have a bit of difficulty with a shoot and scoot. For greater operational flexibility and rapidity, or to make that speedy getaway from campus rent-a-cops, it also is vehicle-mountable.
You may be wondering why on earth, aside from breaching another fraternity house or launching a hostile takeover of the cube farm on the office floor above you, would you possibly need a water cooler cannon.
There actually are very good reasons special forces, the police, the military and Jack Bauer-types would love to get their hands on one of these.
The cannon is one of a relatively new species of "non-lethal" weapons, joining the ranks of rubber bullets and pepper spray. Check back with me in a few weeks for a sneak peek at another very cool non-lethal weapon — the ray gun.
In a hostage situation, say, where terrorists are holding civilians captive, rescuers could deploy the water cooler cannon and minimize the risk of physical injury to captives.
When a conventional explosive charge such as the ones you see in the movies are deployed, it is very difficult to limit damage from the resulting shrapnel, one reason car bombs are so devastating.
Hostages could more safely be rescued using this cannon because the majority of its kinetic energy would be lost on impact, making it far less dangerous for hostages on the opposite side of the breached wall.
Or say a Jack Bauer-type has located a suspicious vehicle, a mail delivery truck, for example, and they are concerned there might be explosive terrorist material in the truck. Rather than risk lives, the cannon could be used to punch a hole in the side or take the roof off the vehicle.
For the military, the cannon also would be useful to clear road blocks, defeat barricades or even stop moving vehicles.
With infinite range and velocity, weaponizing the average water cooler is not just an amusing way to take office prairie dogging to a new level. After all, wouldn’t you rather be a wet hostage than a bloody one?
Allison Barrie, a security and terrorism consultant with the Commission for National Security in the 21st Century, has an M.A. from the King's College War Studies department and has just completed her Ph.D thesis with King's.