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Thread: WWI Carrier Pigeons in a 21st century context

  1. #1
    Council Member AdamG's Avatar
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    Dec 2005
    Hiding from the Dreaded Burrito Gang

    Default WWI Carrier Pigeons in a 21st century context

    From 1917 to 1957, the Signal Corps maintained pigeon breeding and training facilities, and birds saw service in World War II and Korea. When the pigeon service disbanded in 1957, the Army contended that advances in electronic communications rendered the peacetime maintenance of pigeon breeding and training facilities unnecessary. The remaining pigeons were sold at auction, with a select few being donated to zoos around the nation. Today the use of homing pigeons is viewed as novelty, a quirky vignette of the early 20th century battlefield.

    Over 60 years later, the military homing pigeon warrants reexamination. The electromagnetic spectrum’s influence extends throughout the systems and operations of the battlespace into the fabric of civil society. Offensive and defensive operations in the cyber space realm, combined with kinetic strikes on air, land, sea, or space-based infrastructure, could potentially disable or severely damage entire communication or power grids. Adversaries with electronic warfare dominance would then be positioned to control the battlespace and restrict the options presented to American or allied commanders. Reflecting on electronic warfare’s potential, some communications between the front lines of the battlefield and rear echelon command and control elements may need to rest on the legs or back of a feathered messenger when a human runner or more visible vehicle or aircraft may prove too vulnerable to interception or destruction.
    Considering the storage capacity of microSD memory cards, a pigeon’s organic characteristics provide front line forces a relatively clandestine mean to transport gigabytes of video, voice, or still imagery and documentation over considerable distance with zero electromagnetic emissions or obvious detectability to radar.
    A scrimmage in a Border Station
    A canter down some dark defile
    Two thousand pounds of education
    Drops to a ten-rupee jezail

  2. #2
    Council Member
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    Dec 2009


    As a thought experiment it sounds interesting.

    But as the E in PACE for emergency means of wide area communication is it actually viable at scale?

    AQ and other illicit networks went old school to avoid detection/destruction.

    But do AQ and illicit networks require high velocity information collection, analysis, and dissemination to function effectively?

    Even if it’s just the E before the PAC, does it too readily acquiesce to the complete loss of communication spectrum?

    One upside, if it were ever seriously considered or practiced, might be the opportunity to put micro management back on the shelf and dust off mission command.

    I wonder if quantum or next generation daisy chained line of sight innovations might made pigeons redundant again, outside of the conceptual.

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