Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history - We Are The Mighty
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Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history

It’s no secret that there are solid arguments against the American M4 rifle. Its “varmint” caliber chambering and fouling-prone gas impingement operating system have formed the foundation of complaints against the platform for decades.


In fact, U.S. Special Operations Command responded to those concerns in the early 2000s with the SOCOM Combat Assault Rifle program, which sought to replace aging M4 carbines with something more powerful and reliable. The one that was ultimately fielded turned out to be the Mk-17 SCAR Heavy battle rifle.

 

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
An Army Special Forces soldier armed with a Mk-17 SCAR-H, America’s modern variant of a classic battle rifle. (Photo: USASOC via Flickr)

 

Chambered in 7.62×51 and feeding from detachable box-type magazines, the SCAR-H took the world-class ergonomics of the M4 and married them to a harder-hitting round and a more reliable operating method — a short-stroke, piston-driven action. The SCAR is an awesome weapon; literally every unit fielded with it raves about its performance, reliability, and incredibly-light recoil.

Plus, the short-stroke piston system is adjustable, so shooters can crank the gas to high if their SCAR becomes too dirty or fouled up in a prolonged firefight. This same system makes the platform more modular as well, since unlike the M4 it doesn’t require a different buffer or spring with different barrel lengths.

With all the inherent advantages of the SCAR, it’s hard not to wonder how someone didn’t invent something like it before.

Except they did. In fact, the same company responsible for the SCAR’s production and development designed a rifle with many of the same features more than 70 years ago – the FN FAL.

 

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
Irish soldiers armed with the FN FAL rifle in The Congo. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

For the uninitiated, the FAL or Fusil Automatique Leger (light automatic rifle), isn’t some unknown prototype that never saw action. It was fielded by more than 90 countries, many of which belonged to NATO, earning it the nickname, “The Right Arm of the Free World.”

Having seen more than 60 years of combat use, the FAL also holds the distinction of being one of the few rifles to be fielded by two opposing armies, including during the Falklands War where Argentine and British forces both wielded FALs. Hell, the FAL has been fired in anger on nearly every continent on Earth, cementing its reputation as a die-hard reliable battle rifle.

Given that much of America’s war on terror groups takes place in the Middle East, it’s important to note that Israel’s armed forces, the IDF, equipped its soldiers with the FAL before replacing it with American-donated M-16 rifles.

In all fairness, some in the IDF claimed issues with the FAL in dusty and sandy conditions led to its replacement by the M-16. This claim should be viewed with heavy skepticism for several reasons, the largest being that no politician wants to be seen as the impetus behind equipping their military with, ‘cheaper’ equipment. Plus, the FAL served all over Africa without similar concerns emerging.

In fact, many believe the FAL should have been the rifle America adopted as its DMR for use in both the plains of Europe, and the Middle East.

 

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
British troops modified the receiver to accommodate optics. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Truth be told, the FAL isn’t perfectly suited for the role as it ships from the factory. If it were to see even a small fraction of the developmental evolution of the M16, it would have been a world-class fighting rifle in no time.

For instance, as it arrives from the factory, the FAL lacks an optics rail, and the available solutions aren’t suited to hard, combat use. However, the receiver itself could easily be modified by a competent engineer to incorporate a full-length, integral optics rail — much like the A3 version of the M4.

Just like the SCAR-H, the FAL features an adjustable gas block, similar heavy-duty box-type magazines and a robust, piston-driven action. The biggest difference between the FAL and the SCAR-H is the FAL’s lack of a railed receiver and its weight.

The SCAR utilizes extruded aluminum to reduce both cost and overall weight. The FAL, however, uses steel stampings and a milled receiver. The FAL’s use of all-steel components makes it very durable but also vastly heavier than the SCAR. Still, the mothballed M-14s that were pressed back into service post-9/11 were even heavier (especially with some of the accurizing chassis that were attached to them later).

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
Talk about harsh conditions…The FAL has also been the chosen weapons of many of the world’s insurgent armies. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Another advantage of the FAL over the M14 is its ability to retain proper zero under harsh conditions. The M14 and its civilian counterpart, the M1A, both have a bad reputation for losing battle zero if the upper handguard is disturbed. Plus, since the rifle uses a hunting-style stock, the action needs to be bedded (essentially a fancy term for glued) into the stock to ensure it doesn’t shift inside it.

Overall, the FAL is objectively a superior combat arm than the M14; one designed for harder use, while offering similar performance. The FAL isn’t an ideal designated marksman rifle in its current form. But it could have been an incredible asset to infantry dealing with distant treats and priority targets.

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Watch what happens when an anti-tank rifle destroys armor plates

The anti-tank rifle is largely absent from modern combat because today’s tanks have advanced armor that can shrug off many tank rounds, let alone rifle rounds. But that wasn’t always the case.


Anti-tank rifles wreaked havoc on World War I tanks, and most World War II tanks had at least a few weak spots where a good anti-tank rifle could end the fight.

YouTube channel FullMag decided to see what one of these awesome weapons would do to a series of 1/4-inch thick steel plates — and the result is pretty great.

 

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
GIF: YouTube/FullMag

 

The shooter was using a 20mm anti-tank rifle with its original tungsten ammo. One of the best things about the video is that you can see what made an anti-tank rifle so dangerous for the crew.

When the 20mm round punches past the first few plates, it doesn’t just pass harmlessly through. Instead, shards of metal split off and turn white-hot thanks to the kinetic energy in the round changing to heat.

For the crew inside the tank, the white-hot slivers of metal and larger chunks of steel would be lethal, potentially getting rid of the crew even if none of them were hit by the round itself.

These awesome weapons saved the day for the Allies in a few battles, including Pavlov’s House in the Battle of Stalingrad, where a platoon of Soviet troops held off a Nazi siege for approximately two months thanks to their skillful use of an anti-tank rifle.

See FullMag’s entire video in the embed below. You can skip to 4:15 to just watch the shot and the effect on the steel plates:

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 reasons military brats are superior human beings

It can be hard to be anyone that is military-connected. Long hours, uncertain travel plans, deployment, bootcamp, cancelling everything…MREs; but military kids somehow manage to navigate the life much better than most adults. What I noticed after spending time with my own military kids and their friends is that when the rubber meets the road they will always shock you with their resilience and their maturity, and really their sheer coolness under pressure. They also have a little bit of humor about their lives, which we all know is an essential part of getting through this life. I’d like to introduce five military kids, ages 6 to 13. If you really want to know what being a military kid is like maybe we should actually ask the kids?


Here are 4 reasons military brats are superior human beings:

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history

Military kids have a sense of humor.

At age 6, Mattis (yes, you read that right, his namesake is the unwavering General Mattis) has a rather humorous outlook on life as a military kid. Both of Mattis’ parents are Marines, his dad is currently serving. He’s dead serious about the fact that having a million dollars would make his life as a military kid much easier. Me too, kid. Upon further reflection he settled on a hug being the best way to get him through the tough times; and is swaying from the idea that it’s impossible that his military parents have made him stronger. Ami, age 11, firmly believes the best part about being a military kid is the military ID you get when you’re 10.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history

Military kids Dannika Mattis.

Military kids find ways to thrive in hard times.

Dannika, age 10, finds the good and bad with military life. “I just don’t want to feel left out,” she said. “My friends from my old school talk about things going on in their lives, and I don’t feel a part of the group anymore. It makes me sad.” On the flip side she says, “Every time I move I get to make new friends, so I have way more friends than regular kids.” Ami, age 11, shared, “I’m used to things getting cancelled. It usually just means we’ll just get to do something different. It might even be cooler.”

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history

Military kids might know more about the world than you do.

Brian, age 13, is always shocked about how much his friends don’t know. “You get to learn a lot about the stuff that’s happening in the world and our history in a way that’s different.” Dannika shared what that understanding really means. “Regular kids have normal lives where they don’t have to worry about their mom or dad going to war. We appreciate our parents more when they are home.”

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history

Military kids Brian, Ami, and Phillip.

Military kids know what they need.

And it’s really simple. Phillip, age 8, says, “I just want people to pray for my dad and me.” On Brian’s wishlist? “People just to be able to be sympathetic to military kids, especially when they have parents who are gone. Just tell us it’s going to be okay and that we aren’t alone, and that you’ll be there for us.”

So, this Month of Military Child we can read about education supports, therapy, why a parent loves their military kid…but it’s worth your time to sit down with your military kid and just ask them. You might be surprised at their responses.

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How China could potentially stop a US strike on North Korea — without starting World War III

After North Korea tested a salvo of ballistic missiles designed to defeat US and allied missile defenses in the Pacific, speculation has risen about a possible US decapitation strike on North Korea.


With the help of Stratfor‘s Sim Tack, Business Insider detailed how such a strike would likely play out, but in the interest of keeping the article focused, we omitted a major player — China.

Here’s how China would respond if the US were to attack the Hermit Kingdom.

China has interests in preserving the North Korean state, but not enough to start World War III over.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
DoD photo

China may not endorse North Korea’s nuclear threats towards the US, South Korea, and Japan, or its abysmal human rights practices, but Beijing does have a vested interest in preventing reunification on the Korean peninsula.

Related: China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service

Still, China’s proximity to North Korea means that the US would likely alert Chinese forces of an attack — whether they gave 30 minutes or 30 days notice, the Chinese response would likely be to preclude — not thwart — such an attack.

China sees a united Korea as a potential threat.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
U.S. Soldiers move a casualty toward a designated casualty collection point (CCP) with their Republic of Korea (ROK) Army Soldier counterparts during a platoon live fire training blank iteration on Rodriguez Live Fire Complex, near the DMZ, Republic of Korea. | U.S. Army photo by Spc. Steven Hitchcock

“A united Korea is potentially very powerful, country right on China’s border,” with a functioning democracy, booming tech sector, and a Western bent, which represents “a problem they’d rather not deal with,” according to Tack.

The US has more than 25,000 troops permanently stationed in South Korea, but no US asset has crossed the 38th parallel in decades. China would like to keep it that way.

And without North Korea, China would find itself exposed.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
A Korean Ship sails in formation during Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2006, the world’s largest biennial maritime exercise. RIMPAC brings together military forces from Australia, Canada, Chile, Peru, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States. | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Rebecca J. Moat

For China, the North Korean state acts as a “physical buffer against US allies and forces,” said Tack.

If the US could base forces in North Korea, they’d be right on China’s border, and thereby better situated to contain China as it continues to rise as a world power.

Tack said that China would “definitely react to and try to prevent” US action that could lead to a reunified Korea, but the idea that Chinese ground forces would flood into North Korea and fight against the West is “not particularly likely at all.”

Overtly backing North Korea against the West would be political suicide for China.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
Kim Jong-Un on the summit of Mt. Paektu. Photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 19, 2015

For China to come to the aide of the Kim regime — an international pariah with concentration camps and ambitions to nuke the US — just to protect a buffer state “would literally mean that China would engage in a third world war,” said Tack.

So while China would certainly try to mitigate the fall of North Korea, it’s extremely unlikely they’d do so with direct force against the West, like it did in the Korean War.

Any response from China would likely start with diplomacy.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. | KCNA/Handout

Currently, the US has an aircraft carrier, nuclear submarines, F-22s, and F-35s in the Pacific. Many of the US’s biggest guns shipped out to the Pacific for Foal Eagle, the annual military exercise between the US and South Korea.

But according to Tack, the real deliberations on North Korea’s fate aren’t going on between military planners, but between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Chinese diplomats he’ll be meeting with.

Even after decades of failed diplomacy, there’s still hope for a non-military solution.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
A North Korean propaganda poster depicting a missile firing at the United States. | Via Flickr.

“There’s still a lot of diplomatic means to use up before the US has no other options but to go with a military option,” said Tack. “But even if they decide the military option is going to be the way to go — it’s still going to be costly. It’s not something that you would take lightly.”

While no side in a potential conflict would resort to using force without exhausting all diplomatic avenues, each side has a plan to move first.

According to Tack, if China thought the US was going to move against North Korea, they’d try to use force to pressure Pyongyang to negotiate, lest they be forced to deal with the consequences of a Western-imposed order in what would eventually be a reunified Korea.

“China could bring forces into North Korea to act as a tripwire,” said Tack.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
Soldiers with the People’s Liberation Army at Shenyang training base in China, March 24, 2007. | 
DoD photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, U.S. Air Force.

“The overt presence of Chinese forces would dissuade the US from going into that territory because they would run the risk of inviting that larger conflict themselves.”

For the same reason that the US stations troops in South Korea, or Poland, China may look to put some of its forces on the line to stop the US from striking.

Related: Chinese troops are reportedly patrolling in Afghanistan

With Chinese soldiers in Pyongyang and around North Korea’s main nuclear infrastructure, the US would have to think long and hard about bombing these critical targets.

It’s pretty likely that China would try to force the “infallible” ruler’s hand.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history

Even China, a country often indifferent to international opinion that has strict prohibitions on free speech internally, wouldn’t want to stand up and back the murderous Kim regime.

Chinese forces in North Korea would “be in a position to force a coup or force Kim’s hand” to disarm, said Tack.

“To make sure North Korea still exists and serves Chinese interests while it stops acting as a massive bullseye to the US,” he added.

That would be an ideal result for China, and would most certainly preclude a direct US strike.

But even if China does potentially save the day, it could still be perceived as the bad guy.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
President Donald J. Trump speaks with Sailors in the hangar bay aboard Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 1st Class Joshua Sheppard

Chinese leaders wants to avoid a strong, US-aligned Korea on its borders. They want to prevent a massive refugee outflow from a crushed North Korean state. And they want to defuse the Korean peninsula’s nuclear tensions — but in doing so, they’d expose an ugly truth.

US President Donald Trump has accused China of refusing to help with North Korea.

If China unilaterally denuclearized North Korea to head off a US strike, this would only vindicate that claim, and raise questions as to why China allowed North Korea to develop and export dangerous technologies and commit heinous human rights abuses.

So what happens in the end?

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
Chinese and US sailors observe a gun exercise aboard the Chinese Navy frigate Hengshui during Rim of the Pacific 2016. (Photo: Chinese Navy Lt. Cmdr. Zeng Xingjian)

For China, it’s “not even about saving” the approximately 25 million living under a brutal dictatorship in North Korea, but rather maintaining its buffer state, according to Tack.

China would likely seek to install an alternative government to the Kim regime but one that still opposes the West and does not cooperate with the US.

According to Tack, China needs a North Korean state that says “we oppose Western interests and we own this plot of land.”

If China doesn’t exert its influence soon, it may be too late.

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7 Interesting Facts About The Javelin Missile System


The FGM-148 Javelin is portable and cheap when it is relatively compared to the targets it was designed to destroy: tanks. Developed in the 80s and implemented in the 90s, it’s one of the most devastating anti-tank field missiles. Here are seven cool facts about the shoulder anti-tank missile system:

Texas Instruments – the same company known for their scientific calculators – developed the Javelin.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
Texas Instruments calculator (Photo: Wikimedia), Javelin (Wikimedia)

To be precise, two companies developed the Javelin: Texas Instruments and Martin Marietta (now Raytheon and Lockheed-Martin).

A Javelin launcher costs $126,000, roughly the same price of a new Porsche 911 GT3.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
Javelin (Photo: Wikimedia), Porsche 911 GT3 (Photo: m7snal7arbi/Instagram)

The Javelin is a fire-and-forget missile; it locks onto targets and self-guides in mid-flight.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
Photo: YouTube

The gunner identifies the target with the Command Launch Unit (CLU) – the reusable targeting component of the Javelin system – which passes an infrared image to the missile’s onboard seeker system. The seeker hones in on the image despite the missile’s flight path, angle of attack, or target’s movement.

The CLU may be used without a missile as a portable thermal sight.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
Photo: Staff Sgt. Bret Mill/US Army

The Army is working on a new CLU that will be 70 percent smaller, 40 percent lighter, and have a 50 percent battery life increase.

The Javelin has two attack modes: direct attack and top attack.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
Photo: Wikimedia

In direct attack mode – think fastball – the missile engages the target head-on. This is the ideal mode for attacking buildings and helicopters.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
Photo: Wikimedia

In top attack mode – think curveball – the missile sharply climbs up to a cruising altitude, sustains, and sharply dives onto the target. This is the mode used for attacking tanks. A tank’s armor is usually most vulnerable on its top side.

The main rocket ignites after achieving about a five to ten yard clearance from the operator.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
Photo: USMC

The Javelin system ejects the missile from the launcher using a conventional motor and rocket propellant that stops burning before it clears the tube. After a short delay – just enough time to clear the operator – the flight motor ignites propelling the missile to the target.

A Javelin missile costs approximately $78,000; about the same price of a base model Range Rover.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
Javelin (Photo: Wikimedia), Range Rover (Photo: eriq_adams/Instagram)

Because launching a Javelin missile is about the equivalent of throwing away a Range Rover, most operators never get the opportunity to fire a live Javelin round.

NOW: This Sniper Round Can Change Direction In Mid-Flight

AND: DARPA Is Building A Drone That Can Tell What Color Shirt You’re Wearing From 17,500 Feet

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Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

As announced last year on Veterans Day, the maker of most American troops’ rifles has launched a line of civilian-legal versions that are exact replicas of the ones issued to the post-9/11 generation military.


FN America’s “Military Collector Series” includes the carbine typically issued to Army infantry troops with detailed accessories familiar to any Joe, an M16 that’ll make Leathernecks harken back to deployments in Anbar and Helmand, and even a semi-auto version of the M249.

The FN 15 M4 Military Collector Carbine and FN 15 M16 Military Collector Rifle are not your typical clones. They are faithful reproductions built to exacting standards by the same builders of actual current government-issue service rifles. While other black rifles look like M4s and M16s, these FN America Military Collector Series guns are M4s and M16s, with the only meaningful difference being the lack of full-auto or burst fire. These two rifles take “replica” to a whole new level.

The M249S — the civilian model of the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon — takes it not just to a new level. It’s a whole new playing field.

Though obviously a semi-automatic rather than a machine gun, there just isn’t another gun like this available without signing up for an enlistment. The Military Collector Series sets a new standard for those who want as close to the real thing as the law will allow.

“This new line of products allows us to showcase FN’s battle-proven legacy of producing firearms for militaries worldwide and passing this technology on to our commercial customers,” said Mark Cherpes, President and CEO for FN America. “We’re excited to bring these semi-automatic versions of the world’s most iconic products to America’s gun owners.”

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
The Limited Edition versions include many of the accessories troops are issued alongside their rifle. (Photo credit FN America)

Most AR-15 pattern guns are advertised as mil-spec, and the wide range of parts and accessories means that the platform’s modular nature makes hot-rodding a base gun into a specialized instrument relatively easy without requiring the services of a gunsmith. But the mil-spec found in these Military Collector Series guns is a lot more “mil-spec” than most mil-spec.

The M4 and M16 model receivers have markings for automatic, though these civilian guns don’t have auto capability. The flash suppressor on the M4 model is permanently affixed to comply with 16-inch minimum barrel length requirements, and the QR code on the Unique ID label simply contains a link to the FN website. Finally, the guns are not stamped “Property of U.S. Government.” Beyond those differences, the guns are the what is currently standard issue.

The M4 model has a 14.5-inch chrome-lined 1:7-inch twist barrel, an A2-style compensator (pinned and welded), six-position adjustable stock, and an ambidextrous selector switch. It also has a Knights Armament M4 Rail Adapter System with rail covers. The M16 model has a 20-inch barrel — also with a 1:7-inch twist — A2 compensator, and ambidextrous selector. It has a fixed A2-style full rifle stock and a Knights Armament M5 RAS with covers. Both guns utilize standard military-issue two-stage triggers designed for the rigors of the combat zone, not the shooting range or 3-gun course. Each model retails for $1,749.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
The FN America M249S SAW is about as awesome as it can get. (Photo credit FN America)

The M249S is, predictably, the eye-catching member of the initial Military Collector Series trio. It has a 20.5-inch cold hammer-forged barrel with quick-change capability and a removable heat shield. The receiver has a formed steel frame with a carrying handle and a folding bipod, a flip-up feed tray cover, and top rail system. Unlike the service SAW, the M249S operates from closed-bolt. It has an ergonomic polymer stock, crossbolt safety, and has a non-reciprocating charging handle. Like the military-issued one, the M249S can operate using either belt-fed ammo or standard AR magazines. The M249S weighs in at 17 pounds and retails for about $8,000.

For the collector who truly must have it all, FN Military Collector Series Limited Editions are available as well. The M4 and M16 Limited Edition models include serialized ID tags and a certificate of authenticity, a GI cleaning kit, a GI sling, and a bayonet — an M9 for the M4 carbine and an OKC3S with the M16. Both rifle Limited Editions cost about $2,000.

The M249S Limited Edition includes a cleaning kit; gages and tools; a sling assembly; 500 M27 ammunition links to build a belt of 5.56; and a spare barrel with heat shield. It ships in a hard case with a molded insert and will set you back around $9,500.

While the prices are nothing to sneeze at, these Military Collector Series guns from FN America represent the closest that shooters and collectors can get to service-issue weapons without joining up. FN reported that the initial production run of the M4 and M16 sold out quicker than expected. With the firearms market remaining strong and possibly more members of the FN Military Collector Series coming in the future, these guns are sure to remain in high demand.

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15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor

Fifteen years after a 17-hour battle on an Afghan mountaintop, a pararescueman’s extraordinary heroism was recognized with an Air Force Cross, upgraded from a Silver Star, following a service-wide review of medals awarded since 9/11.


Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
The Air Force Cross is the service’s highest combat medal for valor, second only to the Medal of Honor. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

Then-Tech. Sgt. Keary Miller –against overwhelming odds and a barrage of heavy fire from Al Qaeda militants– dashed through deep snow into the line of fire multiple times to assess and care for critically-wounded U.S. service members, March 4, 2002.

Miller was previously awarded the Silver Star medal for these actions, Nov. 1, 2003. The Air Force Cross is the service’s highest combat medal for valor, second only to the Medal of Honor.

“We are blessed to have Airmen like Keary in the Special Tactics community,” said Col. Michael Martin, the 24th Special Operations Wing commander, who directed training for Miller’s pararescue team before their deployment in 2002. “In an extraordinary situation, Keary acted with courage and valor to save the lives of 10 special operations teammates. This medal upgrade accentuates his selflessness despite an overwhelming enemy force…although Keary may humbly disagree, he belongs to a legacy of heroes.”

Miller was deployed from the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, an Air National Guard unit based in Standiford, Kentucky. During the mission, he was the Air Force combat search and rescue team leader assigned to a U.S Army Ranger quick reaction force.

Also read: Special tactics airman receives medal upgrade for dramatic rescue

“I would describe Keary as a dedicated pararescueman – dedicated to his craft and dedicated to the motto ‘That others may live.’ That’s how he defined himself and that really defines his actions that day,” said Lt. Col. Sean Mclane, the 123rd STS commander, who was a second lieutenant in Miller’s home unit during that time. “We have a proud legacy and a tradition of valor, and Keary is a big part of that.”

On March 4, 2002, his team was tasked to support a joint special operations team on a mountaintop called Takur Ghar, occupied by Al Qaeda forces– an engagement commonly known as the Battle of Roberts Ridge after the first casualty of the battle, Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts.

One of the most significant events in recent Special Operations history began when a joint special operations team attempted to infiltrate Takur Ghar, which held a well-fortified and concealed force. The ensuing battle would result in the loss of seven special operations team members.

“We were notified there was a missing aircrew and we were launching a team to go find them,” said Maj. Gabriel Brown, a Special Tactics officer, formerly an enlisted combat controller. “It was unknown who exactly was missing, but we loaded up two helicopters full of Rangers and the (combat search and rescue) package, which included me, Senior Airman Jason Cunningham [pararescueman] and Keary, who was my team leader. I trusted him.”

As the quick reaction force helicopter made its approach over the landing zone, they were struck by rocket propelled grenades at close range –they returned fire with mini guns, but the helicopter impacted the ground hard, lurching into the snow.

“Once we landed, 7.62mm rounds ripped through the fuselage–the daylight popping through, smoke aglow; then the rotors decelerated to a grinding halt,” Brown said. “Immediately, we had several casualties; I remember seeing two Rangers face down. Keary and I were deep in the aircraft—and we made eye contact and shared kind of a ‘here we go’ moment.”

The team disembarked from the aircraft to combat the blistering fire of a waiting enemy. At great risk to his own life, Miller moved through the snowy terrain, crossing into the line of fire on several occasions in order to assess and care for critically wounded servicemen.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history

“I saw Keary taking action on the wounded, worried about collecting the casualties and triaging them,” Brown said, who was in charge of aircraft communications and precision strike. “He was careful in his thoughts and actions, conducting himself calmly and coolly – relaying the casualty information to me all morning.”

As the battle continued, Miller collected ammunition from the deceased to distribute it to multiple positions in need of ammo, moving through heavy enemy fire each time.

“I was listening to the updates as they were coming in; I was so proud because my friends were on that mountain and their future was so uncertain but they were rocking it – they were doing everything right,” Mclane said, who was listening real-time to satellite communications of the battle. “It’s like, these guys might not make it off this mountain, but by God, they’re going down swinging.”

When Cunningham was killed during another attack, the casualty collection point he was at was compromised. Miller assumed Cunningham’s role — providing medical aid under fire to the wounded – and braved enemy fire to move the wounded to better cover and concealment.

Related: 12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades

“I wholeheartedly believe the Air Force Cross accurately represents Keary’s actions that day,” said Brown. “I know those lives were saved that day were because of his efforts within that environment…the steps he took to ensure they made it off the battlefield.”

Miller is credited with saving the lives of 10 U.S. service members that day, and the recovery of seven who were killed in action.

Following his deployment, Miller returned to the 123rd STS as a mentor for the newest generation of operators. The events he experienced helped him to shape tactics, techniques and procedures for years to come.

“Keary was already a mature pararescueman before he went on that mission,” Mclane said. “But, when he returned, he really dedicated himself to improving our body armor, our equipment, our (tactics, techniques and procedures) when under fire – he was driven to be better, and to make his teammates better.”
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the safest place to be in combat might be in a British Challenger tank

Anyone who says “they don’t make ‘em like they used to” has clearly never seen a Challenger 2 tank in action. The Challenger was first introduced in 1993 and has seen action in Bosnia, Kosovo and the Iraq War. In all that time, not one was ever lost to the enemy. This is a tank designed to protect its crew.

The Challenger 2 main battle tank is a direct upgrade from the Challenger 1, introduced just ten years before. Instead of being built by the government of the United Kingdom like its predecessor, the Challenger 2 was built by privately-owned companies, as if you needed more proof that capitalism is better than socialism.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
A Challenger 2 tank on Castlemartin Ranges in Pembrokeshire, Wales fires a ‘Squash-Head’ practice round. (Image courtesy of Cpl Si Longworth RLC)

Differences between the two may not be apparent at first sight, but they’re there. The upgraded Challenger 2 main battle tank has an improved gun sight, improved ceramic composite armor and a steel underbelly lined with more armor as part of a “streetfighter” upgrade, just to name a few. 

That armor served it well during its combat debut in 2003. By 2001, the Challenger 1 had been completely replaced by the Challenger 2. When the UK went to war in Iraq alongside the United States, it was finally able to bring its new tank to a fight. They were worth every pound and penny.

Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein probably wished he had a couple hundred of these tanks, because the British laid waste to the tanks he did have. A team of special operators from the British 40 Commando cleared the way to Basra with the help of 12 Challenger 2 tanks from the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. The Challengers knocked out 14 Russian-built T-54 and T-55 tanks in the fighting while suffering only two damaged.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank patrolling outside Basra, Iraq (Graeme Main, UK Defense Imagery)

In fact, no Challenger tanks were ever lost to the enemy during the entire Iraq War, although some should have been. In 2006, a British Challenger was hit by at least 15 RPGs during a fight near the Iraqi city of al-Amarah. During the battle, one of the RPGs penetrated the under armor of the tank. The driver lost a foot in the blast, but was able to withdraw the tank to safety.

The next year, an improvised explosive device also broke through the tank’s underbelly, wounding another driver, who lost both legs. The tank and the rest of the crew were just fine and the Ministry of Defense upgraded the tank’s lower armor to further protect the crews from this kind of attack. 

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
Challenger 2 with armour upgrades to the sides of the turret, skirts, bar armour to rear. Smoke grenade launchers visible on turret front. Counter-IED ECM antennas are on the platform on the turret, and additional ECM equipment overhangs the left and right front fenders. A remote controlled weapon systems (RCWS) has also been fitted to the turret. (Cpl Russ Nolan RLC/MOD)

On only one occasion was a Challenger tank destroyed in combat, and it came at the hands of another Challenger in a friendly fire incident. During the fight for Basra in 2003, one Challenger mistakenly targeted friendly British forces while using its thermal guidance system. A high-explosive round hit the tank’s open hatch, starting a fire that spread to its ammunition stores. The ammunition detonated, destroying the tank from the inside. 

Despite the tragic loss of life of the crews and the injuries sustained by Challenger drivers in the Iraq War, the survivability of a Challenger tank is almost unparalleled anywhere else in the world. It’s no wonder that the British government decided to upgrade more than a hundred Challenger 2 tanks, for what will soon become the Challenger 3. 

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This is why a South American country still uses WWII-era tanks

Not every country in the world can afford to buy and operate the latest and greatest armored war machines available on defense markets today, like the M1A2 Abrams or the Leopard 2 main battle tanks.


Some countries opt to refrain from maintaining a fleet of tanks at all, and others, like Paraguay, choose to use refurbished armored steeds from conflicts long past.

As crazy as it may sound, the backbone of the Paraguayan military’s sole armored squadron consists of a humble handful of M4 Sherman medium tanks and M3 Stuart light tanks. Both of these vehicles were last fully relevant when Allied forces marched across Europe on their path to victory against the Axis scourge.

Paraguay received its small complement of Shermans in 1980 from Argentina, while the Stuarts were donated by the Brazilian government in the 1970s. By the time the small South American nation received these second-hand vehicles, however, they were already obsolete and outclassed, unable to stand up to anti-tank weaponry or even other armored vehicles anymore.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
A British Army M3 light tank operating in North Africa during WWII (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

But in recent years, the Paraguayan army has decided to reactivate its fleet of Shermans and Stuarts, “modernizing” them by installing new engines and replacing the M4’s small battery of .30 caliber Browning M1919 medium machine guns with .50 caliber M2 ‘Ma Deuce’ heavy machine guns.

The Sherman was born of a need for a medium-sized tank that was easy to mass produce and deploy overseas in large numbers, swarming larger and more heavily-armored German tanks during WWII. Cheap to produce, and pretty reliable if treated well, the Sherman was a fairly potent killing machine in the hands of tank commanders who knew what they were doing.

The Argentinian military received 450 Shermans from Belgium in the 1940s, putting them through a series of upgrades over the next 30 years that would see these old tanks get larger guns and new diesel engines. A small selection of these Shermans were passed on to Paraguay, though it’s unclear whether or not the examples donated were modernized or left in their original configurations.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
Argentinian M4 Shermans with modified turrets. Similar tanks were shipped to Paraguay in 1980 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

According to Ian Hogg in his book, “Tank Killing,” the Stuart, wasn’t exactly very effective at all in engaging German armor. Though it was one of the few light tanks capable of firing high-explosive shells, it was better utilized as a high speed reconnaissance vehicle by British forces throughout the African theater during WWII, with its turret removed to cut down on weight.

Brazil picked up its Stuarts from the United States in WWII, actually shipping them overseas for combat in Italy as part of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force. Upon the end of the war, these tanks were returned to South America by ship and were upgraded in the 1970s. During that decade, Brazil donated 15 Stuarts to Paraguay.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
An M4 of the Royal Marines in Normandy after D-Day, 1944 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

Paraguay can afford to use these older machines in place of newer heavy tanks mostly because the country hasn’t seen much war over the past 40-odd years. Currently, the military claims these modernized Shermans and Stuarts will only be used for training purposes, though the endgame of the training is highly suspect, considering that the vehicles in question aren’t fit for combat against a decently-armed enemy.

It is possible, however, that these old fighting machines could be eventually used in the long-standing counterinsurgency effort Paraguay has been embroiled in against guerrillas since 2005. Though their hulls would likely be easily destroyed by small anti-tank weapons like the M72 LAW, the armor would still be able to stand up to small arms like pistols and rifles.

Even if Paraguay never uses its tanks in combat, its geriatric fleet will still work in a pinch should the need arise — at least against unarmored and under-gunned enemies.

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Navy investigators say Pendleton housing accusations ‘unfounded’

Navy investigators say they found no evidence to support allegations that a management company running military housing on a major California base overcharged residents on their energy bills.


Several military families who lived in base housing on Camp Pendleton in California — which is managed by the private company Lincoln Military Housing — told We Are The Mighty they were threatened with eviction notices over energy bills they didn’t owe.

The residents alleged they were being intimidated into not fighting the overages, and sources told WATM Navy investigators were looking into the issue.

But according to a Feb. 14 statement from Naval Criminal Investigative Service spokesman Ed Buice, Navy officials closed the inquiry into accusations of over billing “after it became evident the allegations being made were unfounded.”

“No criminal misconduct was discovered,” Buice added in the email statement to WATM.

Buice did not reply to a request for additional comment.

Residents of the San Onofre II neighborhood at Camp Pendleton say they were within the margins for monthly electricity use that would preclude an overage charge.

Military families there pay a lump sum rent that includes a certain amount of energy usage. When they consume less electricity than the allotted amount, they are refunded; when they go over, they receive bills, officials say.

Several residents told WATM that they had seen sudden sharp increases in their electric bills and were threatened with eviction if they didn’t pay up. Many claimed they were rebuffed when they approached base housing officials about the alleged billing problems.

Marine Corps Installations West spokeswoman 1st Lt. Abigail Peterson told WATM in a Feb. 16 email that “all of the official complaints received regarding this situation were addressed and resolved,” adding that Lincoln Military Housing had “implemented a new process to monitor requests to ensure all concerns are addressed in a timely manner.”

“We take feedback very seriously and want to ensure responsible measures are followed to alleviate any issues for our Marines, sailors and their families living here on base,” Peterson said.

Military family advocate Kristine Schellhaas — who originally brought the billing allegations to light — wasn’t satisfied Pendleton’s response, arguing base residents aren’t simply misreading their bills.

“There are systematic flaws with how this program has been implemented,” Schellhaas told WATM. “The facts are that this program needs to get audited.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

FBI reportedly investigating whether Mar-a-Lago invader is Chinese spy

The arrest of a woman who hoodwinked her way into President Donald Trump’s Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, with a thumb drive containing “malicious malware” has exposed flaws in the club’s security system, as the FBI reportedly launches an investigation into whether she is a Chinese spy.

The woman, identified as 32-year-old Yujing Zhang, entered the resort on March 30, 2019, after showing two Taiwanese passports to Secret Service agents and telling them she was a club member trying to use the pool, Secret Service Agent Samuel Ivanovich said in a March 30, 2019 court filing.

Upon passing Secret Service checks, Zhang went through separate checks with Mar-a-Lago staff. They initially failed to verify that Zhang was on the guest list, but eventually let her in, thinking she was the daughter of a member also named Zhang, Ivanovich said. Zhang is a common Chinese surname.


According to Ivanovich, Zhang changed her story upon entering the property, saying she was there for an event organized by the United Nations Chinese American Association — which didn’t exist.

Upon being alerted, Secret Service agents found that Zhang had no swimsuit, and was instead carrying four cellphones, a laptop computer, a hard drive, and a thumb drive containing “malicious malware,” Ivanovich said.

Federal prosecutors in Florida have since charged her with making false statements and entering a restricted area. She is due to appear in court next week.

Woman accused of lying her way into Mar-a-Lago

www.youtube.com

FBI is reportedly investigating

The FBI’s Counterintelligence Division in South Florida is now trying to figure out who Zhang is and whether she is linked to Chinese intelligence services, the Miami Herald reported. Zhang had not been known to US intelligence before March 30, 2019, the Herald said.

The investigation into Zhang is also focusing on Li “Cindy” Yang, the Chinese founder of a Florida spa chain who is accused of selling businessmen access to Trump, his family, and Mar-a-Lago. The alleged event that Zhang said she was attending on March 30, 2019, had been advertised by Yang on Chinese social media, the Herald reported.

A spokeswoman for Yang told the Herald on April 3, 2019, that Yang “stated that she does not know the woman who was arrested at Mar-a-Lago this weekend.”

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history

The FBI is looking into whether Yujing Zhang, the woman who bluffed her way into Mar-a-Lago, is connected to Li “Cindy” Yang, the Florida massage parlor founder accused of selling Chinese businessmen access to Trump.

(Facebook/Cindy Yang)

Mar-a-Lago could jeopardize US national security, senators warn

March 30, 2019’s episode has exposed glaring flaws in Mar-a-Lago’s security system.

It showed that although Secret Service agents carried out physical checks on Mar-a-Lago visitors, whether or not someone gains entry to the club is down to the resort’s own security system.

In a rare statement on April 2, 2019, the Secret Service said: “The Secret Service does not determine who is invited or welcome at Mar-a-Lago; this is the responsibility of the host entity. The Mar-a-Lago club management determines which members and guests are granted access to the property.”

Security measures within the club’s grounds have appeared lax in the past. In 2017, paying member Richard DeAgazio was able to freely snap photos of the moment Trump briefed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe about a North Korean missile test over dinner.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history

The now-deleted Facebook post of Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago in February 2017.

(Screenshot/Facebook)

Photos of the dinner — which DeAgazio posted on Facebook before subsequently deleting them — showed the meeting being conducted in the open, in front of club members, with cellphone lights pointing toward sensitive documents.

In an April 3, 2019 letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein, and Mark Warner said: “The apparent ease with which Ms. Zhang gained access to the facility during the President’s weekend visit raises concerns about the system for screening visitors, including the reliance on determinations made by Mar-a- Lago employees.”

“As the White House Communications Agency and Secret Service coordinate to establish several secure areas at Mar-a-Lago for handling classified information when the President travels there, these potential vulnerabilities have serious national security implications,” they added.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Democratic chairman of the US House Oversight Committee, told Reuters: “I am not going to allow the president to be in jeopardy or his family,” adding that the Secret Service will brief him and his Republican co-chair Jim Jordan on the incident.

As Zhang wrestled her way into Mar-a-Lago on March 30, 2019, Trump had been golfing at a nearby resort. First Lady Melania Trump and other members of the Trump family were at the property at the time, but there is no indication that they crossed paths with Zhang.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history

President Donald Trump and Melania Trump.

(Flickr / Carmen Rodriguez)

Trump dismissed the incident as a “fluke” and said he was “not concerned at all,” according to Reuters.

“We will see what happened, where she is from, who she is, but the end result is they were able to get her,” he told senior military leaders, Reuters reported.

John Cohen, a former acting undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security, told The New York Times that Trump’s frequent visits to the club are a “nightmare for the Secret Service.”

“A privately owned ranch where the president and his people use the location is much easier than protecting the president when he chooses to go to a private club that’s open to members that provides services to those people in exchange for a fee,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the new Arctic ‘Cold War’ is a dangerous myth

All too often the Arctic region is portrayed as an area on the cusp of military crisis. This is an easy narrative to sell; it harks back to the Cold War. Potent imagery persists of submarines trolling silently beneath the Arctic ice and nuclear ballistic missiles pointed across the North Pole.

During the height of the standoff between NATO and the USSR, the world feared a barrage of nuclear warheads streaming in from the frozen north – and this experience has imprinted on the collective imagination and created distinct ideas about the region. This fear, for example, motivated from the 1950s the construction of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Lines, a system of radar stations across the northern US (Alaska), Canada, and Greenland. The DEW Lines were meant to give the US and its NATO allies an early warning of an incoming Soviet nuclear strike.


The Cold War was a significant period in history. But catchy headlines playing off the parallels between the region and a new “cold” war are misleading. There have, of course, been increased tensions between the West and Russia since 2014 due to the conflict over Ukraine and Crimea. The 2018 Trident Juncture exercises in the Arctic, featuring “50,000 personnel from NATO Allies and partner countries”, are evidence of this. But the tension is not Arctic-specific and militaries are diverse actors in the region. This nuance, however, is often overlooked.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history

Belgian and German soldiers of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force train their weapons proficiency in Norway during Exercise Trident Juncture.

Current military exercises and equipment acquisitions fuel old Cold War perceptions. And a certain militarization is indeed occurring in the Arctic. Russia, for example, has recently invested heavily in updating its northern military infrastructure. So too have other Arctic states, such as Canada and Denmark. But military activity has, to varying degrees, occurred for decades in the north – it was just largely ignored by those not living there until recently.

What’s changed?

The Arctic states guard their land and waterways through aerial, submarine and surface ship patrols, much as they have done for years. This hardly constitutes an escalation of military tensions, even if the infrastructure is being updated and, in some cases, increased. Despite this, talk of a new Cold War is heating up.

A nation’s armed forces often play a range of roles – beyond their traditional responsibilities in armed conflict. They are useful for rapid response during disasters, for example, and provide a range of security roles that don’t necessarily mean an escalation to war. They offer search and rescue (SAR) services and policing support.

In Norway, for example, the coast guard is one of the branches of the navy, along with the armed fleet, the naval schools and the naval bases. In Denmark, meanwhile, the coast guard’s Arctic activities are managed by the Royal Danish Navy.

In Canada, the coast guard is a civilian organization. It “is the principal civilian maritime operational arm of the government of Canada“. But it also works closely with the Department of National Defense to provide Canada’s search and rescue services, including aerial support.

The US Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security, which “secures the nation’s air, land, and sea borders to prevent illegal activity while facilitating lawful travel and trade“. By law, however, the US Coast Guard is outside the Department of Defense “in peacetime and is poised for transfer to the Department of the Navy during war“.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy, a 420 ft. icebreaker.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Prentice Danner)

Because of affiliations such as these, the line between military and civilian activity can become blurred. But that doesn’t mean all military activity is hostile or equates to an escalation towards war.

Changing environment

Climate change and technological advances have begun to open up the Arctic. And this means that more policing is required in a region that is remote and often out of reach for traditional police forces.

Other issues are also arising from climate change, such as increased forest fires. In July 2018, Sweden suffered major forest fires. As part of its effort to combat the fires it deployed “laser-guided bombs to douse forest fires”. This initiative was led by the Swedish air force. By using laser bombs, the “shockwaves simply blew out the flames in the same way our breath does to candles”.

As the region’s economic activity expands, armed forces are also being asked to assist more with civilian issues. In 2017, for example, the Norwegian Coast Guard was called in by local police in Tromsø to help police Greenpeace protesters who had entered a 500-metre safety zone around the Songa Enabler rig in an effort to stop drilling in the Korpfjell field of the Barents Sea. The Norwegian Coast Guard vessel, KV Nordkapp, responded, resulting in the seizure of Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise ship and the arrest of all 35 people on board.

Given the Arctic’s growing economic potential, military infrastructure is getting more attention. Russia, in particular, has made it clear that with economic potential on the line in the Arctic, a military build up is essential. For Russia, Arctic resources are central to the country’s economic security so the government line is: “National security in the Arctic requires an advanced naval, air force and army presence.” But issues of national security are wide ranging and are not solely a matter of building capacity to defend oneself from or in war.

Overall, it is vital to remember that while militaries are tools of war, they are not just tools of war. They also contribute to and provide a wide range of security services. This does not mean that increased military spending and activities should not be viewed with a critical eye. Indeed, they should. But discussing “a new Cold War” is sensationalist. It detracts from the broader roles that militaries play throughout the Arctic and stokes the very tensions it warns of.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

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Can ‘The Punisher’ outmatch ISIS in the Philippines?

While the world focuses on Syria and Iraq, the menace of Islamic State is quietly expanding into Southeast Asia.


Eight thousand miles from the Middle East frontline, the Philippines has become the region’s main transit hub for Jihadists traveling to Syria, complete with a network of terror training camps.

Not that this is widely known – even by those living in the country. Contrasting against strong-armed efforts in Malaysia and Indonesia, the Filipino government – preferring to label terrorists as ‘criminal gangs’ or ‘bandits’ – has appeared weak.

Until now, that is. Enter the new president: Rodrigo Duterte.

Known as “Duterte Harry” or “the Punisher” after allegations of vigilante killings to cut crime in the city of Davao, where he served as mayor, the President’s pledges include dumping a hundred thousand gangsters’ corpses in the Manila Bay. Gangs, bandits or terrorists – the growing number with affiliation to Islamic State warrant his immediate focus.

Myriad Militant Problem

Terrorism is nothing new to the Philippines. Separatists, Communists, Islamists have all utilised the southern island of Mindanao and the surrounding Sulu Sea archipelago as a remote safe haven for decades.

Today’s is a myriad militant problem riddled with competing interests, egos and continual splits.

The plethora of rival groups plays into the hands of more entrenched and radical elements with a global agenda and deeper financing. Islamic State has taken up where Al-Qaeda left off in building links to militias such as Jemaah Islamiyah, Abu Sayyaf Group and the Bangsamoro Justice Movement.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
Bangsamoro Justice Movement, led by Usman Basit (tauntingly unmasked), is among local groups allied to Islamic State.

Islamic State’s motive in the region is clear. The Philippines is the only immediately viable launch pad for its Southeast Asia aspirations. Obtaining a foothold here would facilitate a satellite province, or wilayat, endorsing the Islamic State’s objective of a “borderless sphere of influence in Asia.”

Quite how this ambition plays out will be determined in part by a political decision looming June 30 on autonomy for the Bangsamoro region of Mindanao.

Amidst all the infighting, groups such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have been supporting the legal process to create the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

The aspiration for the Bangsamoro Basic Law has significantly reduced terrorism in Mindanao. For now, the region’s separatists are likely to resist ties to Islamic State for fear it could derail progress toward autonomy. Any failure to enact the law, however, is almost certain to trigger a resurgence of attacks and a search for scale.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history

Islamic State has demonstrated an ability to seize opportunities offered by regional extremist conflicts. It operates by first requiring a proposal detailing the local militia’s governance strategy. The next stage is identifying a collectively chosen leader.

Among its quarrelsome Filipino members – whose rival leaders have on occasion ordered their men to shoot at each other – this is likely to be the biggest sticking point in any affiliation with IS.

Nevertheless, the potential rewards for both side are big enough to motivate solutions. The porous nature of maritime routes into Malaysia and Indonesia, and a lack of security around the Mindanao islands, offers Islamic State extensive supply and logistical routes.

Despite declarations to the contrary from the Philippine government and security agencies, Islamic State has already made in-roads to some of the local jihadist groups in Mindanao.

Black Standard

A stronghold of conservative Sunni Islam, the Mindanao people are largely impoverished, long politicised, disenfranchised and aggrieved. They’re a Muslim minority in a country that is 87% Roman Catholic. Parts of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago once belonged to the Islamic Sultanate of Sulu, founded in 1405 – a reference point not lost on Islamic State’s recruiters. The Black Standard synonymous with al-Qaeda and now Islamic State has been seen with the words ‘Islamic State of Mindanao and Sulu’ on several videos and social media pages of Filipino extremists this year.

The area is fertile ground for Islamic State’s efforts to spread its Salafist ideology, and can become a base for further allegiances across Southeast Asia. Such ties are already taking root, as demonstrated by the attacks on Jakarta in January, the arrest of suicide bombers during planning phases in Kuala Lumpur the same month, and the ongoing internment of suspected jihadists across Malaysia since the middle of last year.

Should the Bangsamoro Basic Law pass on June 30, turning the region historically referred to as Bangsamoro, or ‘region of the Moros,’ into a politically autonomous province, then Islamic fundamentalism will be championed by lawful separatism. It should help to slow the local aspirations of Islamic State.

Failure to ratify, on the other hand, could be a catalyst for resurgent separatist terrorism. As in the past, Mindanao could become a total no-go zone for the government. Without doubt, this would serve to benefit the plethora of radical jihadist militants and their aspirations, including Islamic State.

The new President has expressed support for the Bangsamoro Basic Law and wants to move toward federalism to bring peace to Mindanao.

If he can achieve this, the Punisher would warrant a new name: the Peacemaker.

But such rational thinking might be too much to expect. This is, after all, a president who publicly entertained rape fantasies and called Pope Francis a ‘son of a whore’ after the papal entourage tied up traffic in the already-busy streets of Manila last year. His unapologetic stance toward the Vatican, though distasteful toward many of his Catholic constituents, may be an indication of his refusal to back down from the more existential threat posed by Islamic State.

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history
Phill Hynes

The authors of this report are Phill Hynes and Hrishiraj Bhattacharjee, analysts at ISS Risk, a frontier and emerging markets political risk management company covering North, South and Southeast Asia from its headquarters in Hong Kong.

 

 

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