Man’s best friend can also be man’s best tandem parachuting partner. The Guardian reports that UK forces have been sending Taliban-hunting dogs into Afghanistan.
Dogs have been used previously by American and Austrian paratroopers, which sheds some light on how the British might be using their pups, says Wired:
SAS pooches are trained for High Altitude High Opening (HAHO) jumps, in which parachutes are deployed at a high altitude and long horizontal distance away from a target location in order to allow jumpers to glide in without detection.
The dogs and their handlers jump from planes at 25,000 feet up and from as far as 20 miles away. Since they initially drop through a low-oxygen environment, the dogs need to be given oxygen through special masks. Reports in The Times from handlers say that the dogs enjoy the ride:
“Dogs don’t perceive height difference, so that doesn’t worry them. They’re more likely to be bothered by the roar of the engines, but once we’re on the way down, that doesn’t matter and they just enjoy the view,” said the dog handler. “It’s something he does a lot. He has a much cooler head than most recruits.”
When they reach the ground, the dogs go in search of their target: Taliban insurgents. But they aren’t alone; they carry in the eyes of their handlers through head-mounted video cameras to scout the areas. The action is just as dangerous for the dogs as it would be for humans, says The Guardian:
The dogs are reportedly trained to attack armed people, and eight of them have died in action so far. “But that would be eight SAS men,” a source told the Times.
Americans and the British aren’t the only ones using dogs. According to reports, Iraqi insurgents once attempted to use two dogs not as bomb-sniffers, but as the bombs themselves. Reports say that the amateur surgery performed on the dogs to implant explosives ended up killing them before they were loaded onto a flight bound for the United States. While this allegation makes using dogs as paratrooping scouts sound more acceptable, The Guardian says PETA still has a problem with it:
Animal rights campaigners expressed their outrage at the use of dogs by British forces in Afghanistan. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) said: “Dogs are not tools or “innovations” and are not ours to use and toss away like empty ammunition shells.”
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Image: Austrian Armed Forces