US commandos took military dog along for Osama strike

Last Updated: Friday, May 6, 2011 - 17:48

Washington: The elite unit of US Navy SEALs
which killed Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan had a specially-
trained explosives-sniffing dog for the surgical strike.

The commandos numbering 79 brought along the military
dog for the covert operation at bin Laden`s compound in the
garrison town of Abbottabad on Sunday, according to US media
reports.

The fearless four-legged recruit was strapped to an
assault team member during the operation in which the special
forces lowered themselves down ropes from the helicopters
to storm the al Qaeda leader`s secret lair.

It is unclear what the role of this particular canine
was in the 40-minute helicopter raid but he was probably there
to sniff out explosives, detect weapons or even apprehend
fleeing suspects.

The dog used in the US raid would have run down the 9/11
mastermind if he had tried to escape, according to the
reports.

The breed of the dog who has not been named was not
known and he seems to have been unharmed in the operation and
left with his team-mates.

The identity of the military super-dog, like that of the
79 Navy SEALs will remain a secret.

But experts say the canine is either a German shepherd
or Belgian Malinois breeds the US army believe have "the
best overall combination of keen sense of smell, endurance,
speed, strength, courage, intelligence and adaptability to
almost any climatic condition", according to a military fact
sheet cited in the New York Times.

In the Abbottabad compound raid, the dog was equipped
with protective body armour before rappelling onto the ground
from a hovering helicopter in a support harness attached to
its handler, according to the media reports.

This particular dog was known for its bomb-sniffing
prowess and `The Daily` reports it was trained to "sniff out
enemy troops from up to [3km] away".

The German and Belgian shepherd dogs can run twice as
fast as humans, so if bin Laden tried to escape on foot the
dog could have stopped his getaway, the Atlantic reported.

The most commonly used breeds in the US military in
Pakistan and Afghanistan are the German Shepherd and the
Belgian Malinois. These dogs are typically well-protected,
wearing body armour and infra-red night sight cameras. They?re
valuable dogs, well-trained and highly effective.

The US is believed to have more than 500 dogs in service
in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

According to the US Air Force, the bite from a German
shepherd, one of the breeds used by the military, has a force
between 400 and 700 pounds.

Military dogs go through rigorous training that is just
as demanding as what human troops go through.

Last year, at a cost of more than USD 20,000 per unit,
the SEALs bought four tactical vests for their dogs, according
to The New York Times.

The vests are reported to have infrared and night-vision
cameras that allow handlers to use a monitor from up to 1,000
yards away to see what the dog sees. The handler is also able
to communicate with the dog through a speaker on the vest.

General David Petraeus, Commander of US forces in
Afghanistan, has in the past hailed the capabilities of the
dogs, describing them as highly reliable and totally
irreplaceable.

"The capability they [the dogs] bring to the fight
cannot be replicated by man or machine," according to
Petraeus.

"(Dogs) can sense biological, chemical, or radiological
nuclear or explosive elements in the air better than security
technology can, like sensors, drones, like UAV`s, these types
of things," Halo Corporation President Brad Barker was quoted
as saying by the US media.

Barker said it`s no surprise that a dog was on the
mission to get bin Laden. The Halo Corporation is an elite
team of former special operations and intelligence people
He said these dogs train much in the same way their
two-legged SEAL counterparts do and jump from helicopters
right along with them. As for their gear, they`re heavily
armoured and ready to hit the ground running.

"Bullet-resistant vests that can stop a blade, can stop
a bullet, they get helmets on them to increase their
survivability, night vision goggles, thermal imagery," he
said.

The dog on the bin Laden mission was there to detect
explosives. Their ability to get into confined spaces and send
back live video of interiors of buildings is crucial to let
teams of SEALs know when it`s safe to enter, ensuring the
mission`s success.

"It takes a special dog with special breeding, a
tremendous amount of patience from a handlerm and then still
only a select few make it to be SEALs best friend," Barker
said. "By all measures of performance, their yield outperforms
any asset we have in our industry."

US Military has actually taken the services of dogs
since the Civil War days. Currently, the US Army has an
estiamted 2,800 dogs working to detect IEDs and helping
soldiers out on the battlefields.

The military dogs are a fighting force on four legs
that are able to parachute into action, rappel into combat and
swim into a skirmish. They are outfitted with protective body
armor and a powerful bite.

The war dogs wear ballistic body armour that is said to
withstand damage from single and double-edged knives, as well
as protective gear which shields them from shrapnel and
gunfire.

Wearing oxygen masks, the pooches have been trained to
jump from aircraft at 25,000ft, before seeking out insurgents
in hostile environments.

The animals will attack anyone carrying a weapon and
have become a pivotal part of special operations as they crawl
unnoticed into tunnels or rooms to hunt for enemy combatants.

The cameras on their heads beam live TV pictures back
to the troops, providing them with critical information and
warning of ambushes.

While its bite may be impressive, it is a military
dog`s exceptional ability to detect bombs that makes it
indispensable to soldiers, experts said.

"They`ve spent millions of dollars trying to come up
with the best bomb detection technology," said Rebecca
Frankel, deputy managing editor of foreignpolicy.com, who
writes "War Dog of the Week" for the site.

PTI



First Published: Friday, May 6, 2011 - 17:48

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