An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle - We Are The Mighty
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An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle

An Austrian firm has just debuted a new big-bore, bolt action rifle that could become a player in a new program to outfit U.S. special operations troops with an updated long-range sniper rifle.


A new company in the market, Ritter  Stark is making precision modular rifles from the ground up, using an innovative rifling technology and a barrel attachment system that virtually guarantees zero with optics matched to the caliber. Its SX-1 MTR chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum answers Special Operations Command’s original call to provide commandos with a new “Advanced Sniper Rifle” that could be quickly reconfigured to several calibers and be deadly accurate each time.

The Ritter  Stark SX-1 MTR is built from the ground up for precision. It's modular barrel system includes chamberings in .338 Lapua Magnum, .300 WinMag and .308. (Photo from Ritter  Stark) The Ritter Stark SX-1 MTR is built from the ground up for precision. It’s modular barrel system includes chamberings in .338 Lapua Magnum, .300 WinMag and .308. (Photo from Ritter Stark)

What sets Ritter Stark apart from the competition is the novel way in which its SX-1 changes caliber. Most manufacturers have an interchangeable barrel that slides into the receiver and is attached to the action with a barrel nut or similar method. Ritter Stark built theirs with the barrel attached to the Picatinny-railed upper receiver and it’s secured to the lower through simple hex bolts on the handguard.

“The caliber change takes a maximum of three minutes and you don’t have to take it to a gunsmith to do it, you can just use a hex wrench,” said Ritter Stark Deputy Managing Director Ekaterina Trakham during the 2016 Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington, D.C.

The SX-1 can be switched to a .300 WinMag chambering, a .308 chambering and the .338 Lapua Magnum option. Reports indicate, however, that SOCOM has modified its ASR requirement for a .300 Norma Magnum chambering.

Like other high-end military sniper rifles, the SX-1’s bolt locks inside the barrel for increased accuracy. And the company uses a proprietary “electrochemical” process to rifle its barrels, with company officials saying a .338 barrel is good for 5,000 rounds and a .308 can take 10,000 rounds before needing a replacement.

The SX-1 also has a three-position safety that’s optimized for military and police applications, with two standard “fire” and “safe” positions, and a third one that not only blocks the firing pin but locks the bold handle down.

“We have a lot of experience working with security detail snipers who patrol the perimeter, and they’re usually asked to engage the safety when they’re on target,” said Ritter Stark sales director Alexandr Chikin.

The SX-1 trigger also has a flip safety located under the trigger guard to limit movement that could give away a sniper’s position and also blocks it when the rifle needs to be safed.

Company officials say the rifle should be commercially available within the next few months and cost around $6,000 for the .338 variant and $5,000 for the .308 one.

MIGHTY CULTURE

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’

The wind blows viciously as it sweeps across the open waters, but the sound of gum being popped out of the pack is a familiar feeling that Senior Chief Quartermaster Steve Schweizer will never forget, even after retirement. It’s something that he takes on every mission, a lucky charm that he’ll leave behind when he walks out of the Assault Craft Unit Four (ACU-4) facility for the very last time.


“I won’t fly without it,” said Schweizer. “I’ve actually been on the ramp getting ready to go and I was feeling my pockets and thought ‘oh it’s not there, no I have to run back inside I know it’s in my desk.’ I’ll look at the water, look at the weather, and I’ll just kind of almost go into a quiet place, like just relax. I know that as soon as that mission starts, it’s ‘go go go’, it’s stress, it’s just operational, operational, operational.”

Schweizer first thought of joining the Navy after being unsure what he wanted to do in life.

“I took half a semester of college and realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do,” said Schweizer. “I had an uncle in the Navy who I didn’t talk to very much, but I told him I decided to join the military and he told me how much fun he had in the Navy so I figured I may have made the right decision.”

Schweizer first joined the LCAC program in 2004 and enjoys what he does.

“I’ve been here for fifteen years and I love what I do,” said Schweizer. “I love flying the crafts, I love teaching people how to fly the crafts, and I like our mission.”

Schweizer began running as a hobby before his 2014 deployment, describing it as an escape and a stress reliever.

“I just put my music on, go for a run, and I just tune everything out,” said Schweizer. “It’s just my relax time, my alone time. It’s definitely one of those things where it’s like if you think of work all the time, if you think of the stress of your job all the time, it’s going to get to you, so it’s my outlet.”

The program has a very high attrition rate and has a difficult training pipeline.

“This is a 90×50 foot hovercraft, it weighs about 200 thousand pounds,” said Schweizer. “You’re controlling it with three different controls. Your feet are doing one job and both hands are doing separate jobs. It takes a lot of coordination and it’s not easy.”

Training in the simulator and manning the live craft are completely different, and requires a lot of attention.

“You always have that heightened sense of awareness,” said Schweizer. “Anticipation of what the craft is going to do and how to counteract it. Never take anything for granted.”

On a small craft that is only manned by five personnel, personnel develop a closer relationship with crew members quicker, Schweizer explained.

“They develop that bond because you know that person has your back, or you know that person is looking out for you,” said Schweizer. “I know my crew, I know their families, I know what they like to do in their spare time, they know that if they’re ever in trouble they know they’ll call me first, or they’ll call one of their crew members first.”

This article originally appeared on All Hands Magazine. Follow @AllHandsMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia plans hypersonic missile, F-35 killer for top fighter

Russia reportedly plans to arm its most advanced fighter jet with a powerful hypersonic air-to-air missile that can take aim at aircraft nearly two hundred miles away, making them a potential threat to critical US air assets.

The Su-57 multipurpose fighter jet, a fifth-generation stealth fighter built for air superiority and complex attack operations that is still in development, will be armed with the new R-37M, an upgraded version of an older long-range air-to-air missile, Russia Today reported Sept. 27, 2018, citing defense officials.

The Russian Ministry of Defense is reportedly close to completing testing for this weapon, the development of which began after the turn of the century.


With a reported operational range of 186 to 248 miles and a top speed of Mach 6 (4,500 mph), the R-37M is designed to eliminate rear support aircraft, critical force multipliers such as early warning and aerial refueling aircraft. Russia asserts that the missile possesses an active-seeker homing system that allows it to target fighter jets during the terminal phase of flight.

While Russia initially intended to see the weapon carried by the MiG-31 interceptors, these missiles are now expected to become the primary weapons of the fourth-generation Su-30s and Su-35s, as well as the next-generation Su-57s. The weapon’s specifications were modified to meet these demands.

The Russians are also apparently developing another very long-range air-to-air missile — the KS-172, a two-stage missile with a range said to be in excess of the R-37M’s capabilities, although the latter is reportedly much closer to deployment.

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle

Mockup of the KS–172 in front of a Sukhoi Su-30.

China, another US competitor, is also reportedly developing advanced long-range air-to-air missiles that could be carried by the reportedly fifth-generation J-20 stealth fighter. The China Daily reported in January 2017 that photos of a J-11B from the Red Sword 2016 combat drills appeared to show a new beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile.

“China has developed a new missile that can hit high-value targets such as early-warning planes and aerial refueling aircraft, which stay far from conflict zones,” the state-run media outlet reported, citing Fu Qianshao, an equipment researcher with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.

Slow, vulnerable rear-support aircraft improve the overall effectiveness of key front-line fighter units, such as America’s F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, which just conducted its first combat mission. The best strategy to deal with this kind of advanced system is to “send a super-maneuverable fighter jet with very-long-range missiles to destroy those high-value targets, which are ‘eyes’ of enemy jets,” Fu told the China Daily, calling the suspected development of this type of weapon a “major breakthrough.”

The missiles being developed by US rivals reportedly have a greater range than the American AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), giving them a potential edge over US military aircraft.

The Russian Su-57 is expected to enter service in 2019, although the Russian military is currently investing more heavily in fourth-generation fighters like the MiG-29SMT Fulcrum and Su-35S Flanker E, which meet the country’s air combat needs for the time being. Russia canceled plans for the mass production of the Su-57 in July 2018 after a string of development problems.

There is some evidence the aircraft may have been active in Syria in early 2018, but the plane remains unready for combat at this time. Military analyst Michael Kofman previously told Business Insider that the Su-57 is “a poor man’s stealth aircraft,” adding that it doesn’t quite stack up to the F-35 or F-22.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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5 totally badass weapons you’ve probably never heard of

Obscure historical ways to slice, dice, and fry your opponents.


1. The Fire Lance

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle
Photo: wikimedia

First find a spear. Now fill a bamboo tube with gunpowder and sharp objects and tie the tube to the end of your spear. Next, aim this contraption at someone who has seriously pissed you off and ignite the gunpowder by way of a fuse. Congratulations, you’ve just made and discharged a Chinese Fire Lance.

Considered one of the earliest gunpowder weapons, the Fire Lance was invented in the 10th century and was used throughout the Ming dynasty, often deployed in the defense of fortified cities when an invading or marauding army appeared at the gates. While these were unpredictable one-off weapons, Fire Lances were cheap, very effective at short ranges, and psychologically terrifying for enemy soldiers.

If the initial shrapnel volley didn’t kill you, you were now dealing with a guy more or less wielding a flamethrower. The Fire Lance and other early Chinese gunpowder weapons are the direct precursor for more advanced Middle Eastern and European firearms that would come to dominate warfare in the following centuries.

2. The Mancatcher

Have you ever seriously considered kidnapping an armored nobleman on horseback in order to ransom him back to his vassals? No? Well you really should and if you do, your best bet is the bizarrely designed Mancatcher.

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle
Photo: London Science Museum

This weapon is described by Wikipedia as an “esoteric pole-arm,” probably because it looks like something out of a Terry Gilliam film. The mancatcher’s primary purpose was the non-lethal dismounting and capture of high value targets on the battlefield. Those spikes on the inside of the collar pictured above are predicated on the assumption that anyone you’re trying to catch with the mancatcher is wearing armor, or else I suspect there would have been some severe neck injuries to explain during the ransom negotiations.

The Japanese have a similar weapon called the sasumata which is interestingly still in use today (albeit with a very different design) as a non-lethal way to apprehend criminals and troublemakers.

3. The Bagh Naka

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle
Photo: Wikipedia/Daderot

Anyone with a Wolverine fetish should appreciate this Indian hand-claw, which was a favorite among thieves and assassins of the 15th and 16th centuries. The Bagh Naka (tiger claw in Hindi) consists of a crossbar with four or five sharp blades and two finger-holes for the wearer’s thumb and pinky finger.

The weapon could be worn so that the blades extend over the knuckle, functionally turning one’s hand into a mauling device, or worn so that the blades are hidden in the palm of the hand, for a more, shall we say, sneaky approach. Some models, such as the one pictured above, had additional blades jutting out from the side to add to the Bagh Naka’s versatility and carnage dealing capabilities.

4. The Ballista

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle
Photo: Wikipedia/Ronald Preuß

This early artillery siege weapon makes the list not only because of its pretty badass name but also because it hurtles spears the size of tree trunks at opposing armies.

Developed by the Ancient Greeks, the Ballista is basically a very large crossbow that discharged an ordinance capable of flattening enemy troop formations at a distance of up to 500 yards. They were often placed at the top of large siege towers and moved within range of enemy fortifications to lighten a besieged city’s defenses. A smaller model, called the Scorpio, was one of the first sniper rifles to see extended action in war and probably deserves its own entry on this list. Perhaps most impressive, the Ballista remained in use for more than a thousand years which is pretty rare for such a specialized siege weapon.

5. The Macuahuitl 

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle
Photo: Wikimedia/Zuchinni one

The Macuahuitl was a meso-american club which was affixed with numerous obsidian blades on its sides. It could be used to lacerate opponents or bludgeon them into unconsciousness.

The conquistadors were greatly impressed with the effectiveness of this weapon during their conquests and we have multiple reports of Macuahuitl being used to decapitate horses with a single swing. They were also reportedly used by the Aztecs to knock out targets during raids to acquire sacrificial victims.

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle
Photo: Wikimedia

There are surprisingly no known authentic Macuahuitl left, however reconstructions such as the one pictured above have been extensively tested and confirm the weapon’s deadly effects. It is the only obsidian based weapon I am aware of and that makes it pretty badass in my book.

Also at HistoryBuff.com:

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Articles

China deploys rappers to fight US missile defense

China’s fight against the deployment of a battery of Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense missiles has now expanded to the deployment of hip-hop.


No, you didn’t read that wrong – China’s now using a rap video as a form of public diplomacy against the ballistic missile defense system, according to a report by the New York Times. The video seems to be bombing, with less than 50,000 views on YouTube.

The video, in English and Chinese, urges South Korea to reconsider the system’s deployment.

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle
AiirSource Military | YouTube

Dubbed “CD Rev,” the rap group is based out of Sichuan, China, and has done other videos in support of Beijing’s government — including one on that country’s claims in the South China Sea, a maritime flashpoint involving five other countries, as well as a video celebrating the legacy of Mao Tse-Tung.

A London Daily Mail report from 2011 noted that Mao was responsible for at least 45 million deaths during “The Great Leap Forward,” a brutal attempt to shift the country from an agricultural-based economy to an industrial one.

The deployment of THAAD has drawn sharp criticism from China – and the reactions have included hacking that targeted the South Korean company that allowed the battery of missiles to be placed on a golf course it owned. The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs was also hacked. China has also been blocking videos of South Korean artists, particularly from the K-pop genre.

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle
Heritage.org

South Korea recently elected Moon Jae-in, who has favored diplomacy with North Korea, as President after the impeachment and removal from office of Park Geun-Hye.

The THAAD battery, consisting of six launchers that each hold eight missiles along with assorted support vehicles, was deployed to South Korea to counter the threat posed by North Korea’s ballistic missiles. According to ArmyRecognition.com, the system has a range of over 600 miles.

The United States has other options to shoot down a North Korean ballistic missile, including the sea-based RIM-161 Standard SM-3. The system is considered far more capable than the MIM-104 Patriot systems that the United States, Japan, and South Korea have deployed.

Here’s the video from CD Rev:

Articles

5 real life games you can play to get ready for war

Most service members played Army when they were kids. And throughout our childhood educational years, we were presented with a host of games that stretch our minds and hone our analytical skills.


In the military, the goal isn’t much different — though the information is just delivered through alternative means like “death by PowerPoint.” And isn’t nearly as much fun

Related: 5 crazy games you played while in the military

So to avoid the boredom of paper and screens, we compiled a list of real life games you can play stateside that will increase your unit’s communication, physical stamina, and mental toughness.

1. Laser Tag

Running into a low-lit terrorist cell with weapons at the ready with your adrenaline pumping and still being ready to “expect the unexpected” while you clear the room can be incredibly stressful.

Dial back the dangerous nature of the mission and you could have a friendly game of laser tag.

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle

2. Treasure hunt

In grade school, we used to bury or hide objects at the playground, draw a detailed map where we left them and dare our friends to hunt down the prize — sounds easy.

Pretty much what land navigation is today minus the prize, it’s now your objective.

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle

3. Flag football

It was in the late 1860s that the football game kicked off between Princeton and Rutgers — and at the time, players typically played both offense and defense. This game requires plenty of communication and sets each player into different jobs and rolls.

While on patrol or in a convoy, if allied forces take contact from the bad guys, it’s up to the leader to “quarterback” the defensive strategy and instruct men how to bring the fight to the enemy.

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle
The Company Grade Officers Council goes for another touchdown during their flag football game at Eglin Air Force Base, (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

4. 52 cards

You can pull many different infantry games from a deck of playing cards. The main focus is to develop a game to build muscle memory. Assign an exercise or action drill for every suit in the deck and use the cards’ face value for the number of repetitions.

First one through the deck is the winner.

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle

Also Read: 5 things I wish I knew before deployment

5. Blindfolded tag

We conduct military operations at night, attacking the enemy once the sun goes down when they least expect it. There’s no better way to learn to fight if your night vision goes down while you’re stateside than blindfolded tag.

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle

 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

An indestructible beetle could inspire the next generation of military technology

When ironclad warships were introduced by the Confederacy in the U.S. Civil War, they wreaked havoc on wooden Union warships. Even under heavy fire from an entire flotilla, shots bounced harmlessly off the sides of the armored ships. 

This is how one California beetle earned its name. The Ironclad Beetle’s exoskeleton is one of the most indestructible structures ever found in nature and there’s not one bird beak, lizard tooth or Dodge Charger that can crush the five-millimeter insect. 

It’s the beetle’s survival design that’s leading researchers to uncover ways to adapt it to serve mankind. 

The beetle can’t fly. It has no poison or stinking chemicals to deter predators. It’s not even that fast. But when under threat of attack, the beetle’s instinct is to play dead and depend on its heavy armor to keep it alive and unharmed. 

The armor’s secret is its impact-resistant and crush resistant exoskeleton, created by “complex and graded interfaces… multiscale architectural designs… and toughening mechanisms.” In a recent article published in the scientific journal “Nature” researchers found “interdigitated sutures, the ellipsoidal geometry and laminated microstructure of which provide mechanical interlocking and toughening at critical strains, while avoiding catastrophic failure.”

All that is to say, this is one tough bug and nature designed it that way. It’s able to withstand 39,000 times its body weight before squashing. That would be like putting  7.8 million pounds of crush weight on a 200-pound human.

Models of the structure based on microscopic observations show that the beetle’s armor is created not just through a superstrong material, but also through the use of well-placed, impact absorbing pieces. A series of connections from the top to bottom halves of the beetle have a series of connections that latch together. Plates on the front of the beetle interlock like a set of zipper teeth.

Luckily for humans, the beetle is a wood-boring fungivore and is not interested in the destruction of mankind at all. For those interested in the preservation of human life, the beetle is a wealth of information.

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle
The Texas Ironclad Beetle. mage courtesy of Judy Gallagher (Flickr)

Researchers at Purdue University have already 3D printed structures using the Ironclad Beetle’s structural design, making fiber-reinforced materials that could be used in many different ways. 

Aircraft have stress points in their structures, in areas where wings and other sections are traditionally riveted together. These stress points are prone to degrading over time. Using the beetle’s superstrong, armored structure could make aircraft stronger in these points by creating interlocking pieces that fasten together.

In fact, anything that is fastened together with steel or plastic could conceivably be strengthened using the beetle’s interlocking design. This includes bridges, vehicles and even human-sized body armor.

The study of the Ironclad Beetle was part of an Air Force-funded study that was designed to look for designs in nature that could help inform the development of more impact resistant designs. 

If this sounds ridiculous, keep in mind there’s an entire field of study devoted to mimicking the animal kingdom (and other kingdoms) for the benefit of humanity, called biomimetics. It’s currently researching how the mantis shrimp can punch at 50mph with 1,500 newtons of force. Plant studies inspired the research that gave us velcro. 

For an entomologist to put an insect pin through an Ironclad Beetle being researched or put on display requires a drill with a special bit. Now Imagine wearing the human equivalent of such body armor on your way into combat.

It’s not a waste of money when you’re the one who’s gonna wear the armor.  

Articles

This was how the military reacted after terrorists attacked on Sept. 11

On the day that 19 terrorists from the radical Islamic group al-Qaeda attacked the United States using airliners as cruise missiles, the U.S. military jumped to respond.


And it was a response that began even before the Pentagon was hit.

Some stories of 9/11 are well-known, including then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld racing to the scene of devastation at the Pentagon to aid victims of the attack, or the pilots plan to ram Flight 93 foiled hadn’t by passengers on the plane.

But there were other heroic deeds during the attack.

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle
When Flight 93 hit the Pentagon, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ran to the scene to assist victims rather than remain in relative safety. (PentagonMemorial.org)

According to the 9/11 Commission report, when word reached North American Aerospace Command, also known as NORAD, of the first hijacking, two F-15 Eagles from the Massachusetts Air National Guard were scrambled to try to intercept the planes. They took off just as Flight 11 hit the North Tower – WTC 1 – at 8:53 AM on that Tuesday morning.

NORAD had last dealt with a hijacking in 1993. One thing that worked against NORAD during that terrible day was the fact that that there were very few sites from which interceptors could launch.

During the Cold War, the 9/11 Commission Report noted, there had been 26 sites.

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle
NORAD Command Center. (Wikimedia Commons)

Other military jets — F-15s from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton Virginia, and F-16s from the District of Colombia Air National Guard based at Andrews Air Force Base — had also scrambled. Pilots from the latter unit were armed only with dummy rounds for their M61 Vulcan 20mm cannon.

The F-15 pilots, according to the commission report, didn’t even know they were looking for hijacked airliners. The lead pilot would later be quoted in the report as saying, “I reverted to the Russian threat. …I’m thinking cruise missile threat from the sea.”

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle
Maj. Gen. Marc Sasseville, who was the lead F-16 pilot, and prepared to ram a hijacked airliner. (USAF photo)

It as a credit to NORAD, that even though they were unable to keep the airliners from hitting targets, military personnel were able to face an unprecedented threat and challenge with an improvised air-defense system cobbled together in a matter of hours, despite having never trained to face that threat.

On the first day of what one unidentified officer called “a new type of war,” they reacted with skill and professionalism.

Articles

Alec Baldwin to play Colonel Jessep in NBC’s “A Few Good Men”

Emmy-Award winner Alec Baldwin will be playing Colonel Jessep in NBC’s live production of “A Few Good Men.” The role was played iconically by Jack Nicholson in the 1992 film of the same name.


According to a report by Variety, Baldwin, along with Aaron Sorkin, Craig Zadan, and Neil Meron, will be credited as executive producers of the live telecast. Sorkin, who wrote the 1992 film and the 1989 play it was based on, is writing the teleplay adaptation.

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle
Alec Baldwin (Wikimedia Commons)

“Alec is one of our greatest actors. Having him play this role — live onstage for a television audience — is a dream come true. This will be a brand new take on Nathan Jessep and I expect that Alec is going to bust through TV screens and right into living rooms,” Sorkin, also known for producing the television series “The West Wing,” told Variety.com in response to the casting announcement.

Baldwin has played other roles in military-related projects, including Jack Ryan in “The Hunt for Red October,” and Jimmy Doolittle in “Pearl Harbor.” He also has extensive live television experience, being a 17-time host of “Saturday Night Live.”

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle

The 1992 film took in over $243 million worldwide, and the American Film Institute noted that the character of Colonel Jessep was nominated as one of the great villains of all time, and his quote, “You can’t handle the truth!” was ranked 29th among the 100 greatest movie quotes.

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle
Wikimedia Commons

The 1989 play garnered a Tony Award nomination for actor Tom Hulce, who portrayed Lieutenant Junior Grade Kaffee.

Articles

The ghastly attack in Kenya proves an important point about terrorist groups

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle


The April 2 attack in Garissa, Kenya, was the deadliest and most heinous atrocity the Somali terrorist group Al Shabaab has ever committed.

Gunmen from Al Qaeda’s affiliate in the Horn of Africa stormed a university campus in the city, killing 147 people after an hours-long siege. It’s the deadliest terrorist attack in Kenya since the 1998 Al Qaeda bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi in which 224 people were killed.

The terrorist attack demonstrates an ongoing security threat in one of the most stable and prosperous countries in sub-Saharan Africa — and it shows how jihadist groups can remain dangerous even as they lose territory and leadership.

Garissa is a mid-sized city 230 miles from Nairobi and a little over 60 miles from Dadaab, the former desert rest stop that’s now home to the world’s largest refugee camp.

On Twitter, Colby College political science professor Laura Seay noted the extraordinary sacrifice it requires for a family to even send someone to college in a place so much closer to Kenya’s arid and impoverished eastern desert frontier than it is to just about any of its major cities.

“Today’s loss is immeasurable,” she tweeted.

Al Shabaab didn’t just choose the softest of targets; it attacked a place where it could wipe out as many young, promising, and educated people as it possibly could.

In the Westgate Mall attack in September of 2013, Shabaab struck at the heart of Kenyan business and trade, attacking Nairobi’s famed status as east Africa’s cosmopolitan crossroads. The Garissa attack was even deadlier and perhaps even grimmer in its messaging. Shabaab struck Kenyan society where they knew it would hurt the most.

The Garissa attack is shocking for yet another reason. Al Shabaab has repeatedly struck outside of its safe haven in southern Somalia over the past year, carrying out a series of gun attacks around the coastal town of Mpeketoni, Kenya, that killed over 60 people during the summer of 2014.

It’s retained its external attack capabilities and command structure despite suffering what would seem to be a series of debilitating setbacks. In January, the former head of Shabaab internal intelligence, who had earlier surrendered himself to Somali authorities, publicly denounced terrorism and urged his former colleagues to lay down their arms.

A September 2014 drone strike killed Ahmed Godane, Shabaab’s domineering leader and one of the most-wanted terrorists in Africa. Another drone strike on March 18 killed Adnan Garaar, the head of Shabaab’s external operations and the mastermind of the Westgate attack.

But Shabaab has forged a new model for how declining terrorist groups can remain dangerous, as analyst Clint Watts argued in a World Politics Review article published just before the Garissa massacre.

Shabaab has done nothing but splinter, vacate territory, and lose top leadership since ruling over most of Somalia and nearly all of its capital, Mogadishu, in 2010. Even so, Watts observes that “a sizeable military coalition is still fighting in the Horn of Africa more than four years after the group’s zenith,” a reference to an ongoing African Union military mission in Somalia in which Kenya is a longtime participant.

Shabaab has kept itself intact by retreating into the southern Somali wilderness and refocusing its efforts around large-scale attacks rather than holding or governing massive swaths of territory. Just a week before the Garissa attack, Shabaab killed over 20 people during a raid on a hotel in Mogadishu, including a Somali diplomat.

Even after years of decline, Shabaab has a remote safe haven that’s preserved its ability to pull off large-scale attacks in multiple countries in consecutive weeks.

More worrying is Shabaab’s deep network in neighboring Kenya, which is home to a sizable Somali minority as well as refugees from Somalia’s devastating famine, which had killed over a quarter-million people by 2013 and was greatly exacerbated by Shabaab’s refusal to allow aid groups into areas it controlled.

As Caroline Hellyer wrote for Al Jazeera two weeks before the Garissa attack, Shabaab’s relationship with a “hardline underground group” called al-Hijra gives it a ready-made network in Kenya and Tanzania, allowing it to recruit extremist elements well beyond Somalia.

One grim upshot of the Garissa attack is that it demonstrates Shabaab’s broad operational capabilities in Kenya, East Africa’s cultural, economic, and political leader and a US strategic ally. The region doesn’t have to deal with a Shabaab-ruled Somalia — but it may have swapped that problem for a Shabaab that has even greater ambitions to strike outside of its diminished Somali safe haven.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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The new Air Force chief is sick and tired of Russia’s aerial antics

All is not “pretty darn good” to Air Force Gen. David Goldfein.


The new Air Force Chief of Staff is a month into his command and is already known for “straight talk” to his airmen and the reporters who cover him.

This time, the decorated combat pilot had some strong words for Russia’s air force after several instances of dangerous fly-bys and aerial close encounters.

“I will tell you I am concerned, very concerned about recent Russian behavior in a couple of occasions,” he told reporters at a Pentagon press briefing on Aug. 10. “Low passes over our ships, aggressive acts over our aircraft. You know, my message to my counterpart is I’ve seen the Russian Air Force in action, it’s a professional force, and they’re far better than that.”

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle
A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft making a very low altitude pass by USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) in the Baltic Sea, 12 April 2016. Donald Cook, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer (U.S. Navy photo)

General Goldfein is an experienced pilot who flew combat sorties during Desert Storm, in the Balkans, and over Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 1999, he was shot down in an F-16C Fighting Falcon on a strike against Serbian forces near Belgrade, where he evaded capture until he was rescued by an HH-60G Pave Hawk aircrew.

During the Aug. 10 presser, a reporter asked Goldfein if he was surprised at the Russian air force’s performance during its yearlong deployment to Syria.

“For 50 years, we’ve been intercepting each other in international airspace. … Why in the world would we allow ourselves to do that?” Gen. Goldfein wondered. “It’s because we’ve had standard rules of behavior that we’ve adhered to over time, and so it’s not surprising at all that Russia has a capable air force.”

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle

That’s when he winged over into his rhetorical bombing run on Russia’s recent fly-bys, calling into question the service’s professionalism and urging them to back off.

This was the first press conference Goldfein’s held as the 21st Air Force Chief of Staff. The former F-117 Nighthawk pilot also discussed his plans for meeting the challenges to American air supremacy.

With a nearly 700 fighter pilot shortage and money woes that leave some squadrons without the funds to train, Goldfein says he’s trying to plug the gaps and bolster the force.

“Air superiority is not an American birthright. It’s actually something you have to fight for and maintain,” Goldfein said. “It is a crisis. … I do believe that quality of service will be equally important to everything we can do in quality of life.”

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5 Army myths that just won’t die

The rumor mill is one of the most amazing things about Army service. Conjecture seems to travel through the Private News Network at speeds rivaling any military vehicle. Unfortunately, the PNN is not the most accurate place to get news and there are certain urban legends that show up time and again. Here are five of the rumors that just won’t die.


1. “These soft new soldiers could get a break in basic by just raising their stress cards.”

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle

It seems like every time the Army graduates a class of basic trainees, the rumor pops up that this class was issued the fabled “stress cards.” These legendary pieces of paper would allow soldiers to take a time out if basic was getting too stressful and challenging, but the cards were never supposed to provide a break.

Snopes researched this myth and found an example of cards referencing stress in Navy recruits, while Stars and Stripes found a card that was issued to new soldiers. Neither card allowed for a time out though. The Navy card listed resources stressed sailors could turn to instead of running away or committing suicide. The Army cards served as a reminder to training cadre that recruit stress was real and should be managed.

For both services, there are reports of recruits trying to get out of training by raising the card, but training cadre were not obliged to provide a time out. A 1997 federal advisory committee recommended the use of the cards end due to the widespread misconception that they could be used to take a break.

2. “The Army was drugging us in basic. That’s why we didn’t want to have sex.”

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth

Soldiers in basic may be surprised to find they can go months without sex and not miss it during training. In whispered conversations over dining facility tables, this is blamed on the Army lacing the food or water with saltpeter or other anti-libido drugs.

Stars and Stripes addressed this rumor and every branch of service provided an enthusiastic denial of the myth. In the article, a spokeswoman for the Kinsey Institute addressed the likely cause of soldiers’ lowered sex drive.

“Most people when they are under stress are not interested in sex,” Jennifer Bass told Stars and Stripes. “There are other things going on that are more important that they have to take care of physically and emotionally, and usually those two have to be working together for sexual response to happen.”

The rumor sometimes manifests as the Army drugging deployed soldiers, but the real cause of the dampened libido overseas is probably the physical and emotional stress of combat.

3. “Really, my granddad’s uncle had an M-16 with Mattel right on the grips.”

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle
Photo: US Army Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger

The story goes that the first shipments of M-16s to U.S. troops in Vietnam had handgrips stamped with the Mattel logo, since Mattel had been subcontracted to make the parts in the first few runs of the new rifles.

While a great story, it’s not true. Snopes thinks the rumor started due to a joke among service members. The M-16 was plagued with problems when it first debuted with U.S. troops. Since it was made of plastic and did not function well as a weapon, troops joked that it was a toy using the tagline of the largest toy manufacturer of the time, “You Can Tell It’s Mattel… It’s Swell!” Mattel also manufactured a toy version of the weapon, likely adding to the myth.

The rifle was originally created by Armalite, and it had been producing the M-16 for export for over three years before the U.S. placed an order in 1962. Armalite had supplied an order to the Federation of Malaysia in late 1959, followed by orders for testing in India and fielding by the South Vietnamese. Manufacturing of the design was licensed out in 1962 to Colt who made the weapons finally delivered to U.S. troops in Vietnam in 1965. Colt, Armalite, and yes, even Mattel, have all denied involvement the toymaker had any part in manufacturing parts for the M-16.

4. “Hollywood doesn’t get our uniforms right because it would be against the law.”

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle

Military movies are filled with annoying inaccuracies, something WATM has been happy to point out on multiple occasions. The rumor when it comes to uniform errors is that federal law prohibits civilians from wearing military uniforms, so Hollywood changes aspects of the uniform to get around the law.

First, the law exists but it applies whenever someone fraudulently wears the uniform, even if they intentionally get details wrong. Also, there are exceptions written into the law to protect artistic performances.

Since actors are allowed to wear the uniform while performing, Hollywood could legally portray the uniform properly just as easily as they display it incorrectly. Typically, movies gets the uniforms wrong because the crew doesn’t know better or doesn’t care. At the end of the day, it’s a costume designer outfitting the actors, not military technical advisors.

5. “Starbucks doesn’t support the troops!”

An Austrian company is taking aim at the new US special ops sniper rifle
Photo: US Army Sgt. Carmen Gibson

Many companies have been accused of not supporting the troops for various reasons, but Starbucks seems to be the one who gets criticized the most due to a myth that they openly voiced a lack of support to the Marines. The origin of the Starbucks myth is actually well established. A Marine Corps sergeant heard that some of his peers had requested free Starbucks coffee and been turned down.

The sergeant blasted out an email requesting true patriots boycott Starbucks. Starbucks addressed the accusations, saying that the corporation doesn’t provide free coffee to any organization besides non-profit charities, and the policy wasn’t meant as a comment on military service members. Starbucks employees receive free coffee from the company, and Starbucks allowed its employees to donate this coffee to troops deployed. The company itself just didn’t directly donate any beans.

The originator of the email later apologized, but the myth that Starbucks once voiced opposition to war veterans persists. Starbucks has made a few large overtures to the military community to prove its loyalty. They’ve sent care packages to troops, introduced programs to hire more veterans, and used profits from stores in military areas to fund local veteran charities. In 2014, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced a $30 million donation to support research into PTSD and brain trauma.

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14 images that hilariously portray your first day on a field op

Heading out to the field to conduct a training operation sounds like a whole lot of fun when it’s your first time out. But as we all know, the majority of the time nothing happens as originally planned, and things tend to fall apart just as soon as they start.


Although tactical training is super important, field ops usually consist of nothing more than a lot of hiking, shooting some blanks and eating MREs.

No matter how many times you’ve gone out to the field in your career, you’ll always remember your first time above the rest.

Related: 17 images that show why going to the armory sucks

1. When you show up at the armory to draw your weapon, all motivated at 0500, and you’re the only one there.

Hello? (Images via Giphy)

2. What it feels like riding on a bumpy road in the back of a 7-ton heading out to the field.

Are we there yet? (Images via Giphy)

3. How you feel when you get out of that damned truck.

That’s not good. (Images via Giphy)

4. After you threw up, you told your squad you must have drunk way too much beer last night. They call you a …

No one believes you. (Images via Giphy)

5. Then you wait for the rest of the platoon to show up.

Come on people. (Images via Giphy)

6. They finally show up, but no one appears to be as motivated as you.

Let’s go! (Images via Giphy)

7. But then you just continue to wait some more.

What are we waiting for? (Images via Giphy)

8. Once the orders come down to start training, your squad is instructed capture and take control of a small MOUT town. Everyone now gets into position.

(Images via Giphy)

Also Read: 17 images that show why going to the armory sucks

9. You’re told to take the training seriously as if you’re in a real war zone. But we never do, especially when you have to simulate clearing a room, shooting your weapon or tossing a grenade.

No bad guys here. (Images via Giphy) 

10. Then once you completed that evolution, you loaded your lip with dip or sparked up a smoke. Face it, you have nothing else to do… again.

I hope he doesn’t run out. (Images via Giphy)

11. When chow comes around, the MREs are passed out, and you get the one no one wants.

Yew! (Images via Giphy)

12. After a long day of waiting in the hot sun, it’s getting cold, and you realized you forgot to pack your sleeping bag.

What a boot mistake. (Images via Giphy)

13. After a few hours of lying down trying to catch some shut-eye, your fireteam leader wakes you to stand watch.

But we’re out in the field, Cpl. (Images via Giphy)

14. You arrive at your post watch, and you just stand there in the pitch black. Then it starts to rain, but at least you were prepared for that.

Only four more days left. (Images via Giphy)What was your first field op like? Comment below.

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