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Military employment of animals for Warfare

Throughout history animals have accompanied men into combat as modes of transport and communication, protectors and companions. They have fulfilled a variety of roles – from carrying men and munitions to evacuating the wounded, performing guard and sentry duties to carrying out search and rescue operations, detecting gas in trenches to locating improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Afghanistan.


Horses, mules, donkeys, oxen and even elephants were used for heavy labour during the First and Second World Wars. Animals were not only used to carry weapons and supplies, but to transport men as well. Pigeons and dogs, often able to navigate battlefields more quickly and easily than humans, were trained to carry messages.  Dogs, with their sensitive hearing and heightened sense of smell, are particularly suited for detection duties. Guard dogs are employed to watch over militarily important locations – such as railways, bridges, defence installations and ammunition stores – and give warning of any trespassers. Dogs, with their keen sense of smell, could seek out soldiers and civilians in distress or in need of assistance.


A Japanese research team demonstrated animal brain control in 1997 in an international robotics conference presentation. They used electrical stimuli to keep a cockroach moving in a straight line. Ever since, several global researchers have joined the field, applying similar technology to many animals, including beetles, bees, geckos, rats, and sharks.

The behavior of the animals is usually manipulated through the generation of neural signals that trigger unpleasant sensations such as pain or fear, prompting an immediate action such as turning right or left.


For many years, Western countries have maintained a lead in this field, and, of late, China has been playing rapid catch-up with the West, with claims of breakthroughs such as the controlled movement of a swarm of animals, an automatic guidance system based on GPS, and image recognition to direct an animal to a location without human intervention.


An unnamed Beijing-based researcher in the field of robotics in animals told the SCMP that the brain control technology has potential uses in some military applications, and some of the leading research projects in the field had been funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).


Russia has deployed military trained Dolphins

Russia has deployed military-trained dolphins to protect its Black Sea naval base in Crimea from underwater attack, new satellite images reveal.

The images, taken by the U.S. satellite company Maxar and analyzed by the nonprofit professional military association U.S. Naval Institute, show that two dolphin pens were placed at the entrance to Sevastopol harbor around the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. The harbor, which sits at the southern tip of Crimea, is a major port and of vital military importance to Russia. While many of the Russian ships anchored there are safely out of missile range from Ukraine, they could still be attacked underwater, giving trained bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) an important role to play in their defense.


Dolphins can communicate through high-pitched whistles, and they also sense objects and determine distances through echolocation — sending out high-frequency clicks that bounce back off objects, revealing their proximity to the dolphin. Specially trained dolphins use this natural sonar to detect and draw attention to naval mines or enemy divers. Russia also claims to be finding new ways to make use of dolphins’ detecting abilities.


“Our specialists developed new devices that convert dolphins’ underwater sonar detection of targets into a signal to the operator’s monitor,” a source said to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti. “The Ukrainian navy lacked funds for such know-how, and some projects had to be mothballed.”


Russia has been training and deploying marine animals for military purposes since the 1960s. Throughout the Cold War, both the U.S. and the Soviet Union developed marine mammal programs: The U.S. used dolphins and Californian sea lions, while the USSR deployed dolphins in warm waters and beluga whales and seals in Arctic regions.


China Claims Success In Controlling A Bird’s Mind reported in Oct 2022

Huai Ruituo, a professor at the college of electrical and automation engineering at Shandong University of Science and Technology in eastern China, is leading a team of scientists studying the use of robotics in animals.

According to the paper published by the team in China’s peer-reviewed Journal of Biomedical Engineering, a solar panel about half the size of a smartphone screen was strapped to a pigeon’s back to power a control device on the bird’s head.

This solar panel was meant to charge a small lithium battery which then powered the brain control device on the pigeon’s head that generated nerve-stimulating signals while maintaining wireless communication with the home base.

According to Huai and her team, previous experiments of brain control on pigeons saw the birds following human commands for around 45 minutes, which is similar to the duration of a typical commercial drone. This was due to the limited size of battery the birds could carry.

However, with the new device, “the animal robot can be guided to charge in the sun autonomously if the remaining power is low,” Huai and her colleagues wrote in the paper.

“The results show that for animals that are active outdoors, such as domestic pigeons, the running time is greatly extended after the system is installed, and they can perform tasks in farther places without worrying about the problem of energy exhaustion,” they said.


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