Friday, May 09, 2014

Are All of China's "Secret Weapons" Just as Fragile as they Seem?

This week, CNN reported that the People’s Liberation Army in China has been using trained macaques as part of its defensive strategy.

These clever primates guard the safety of Chinese Pilots by warding off swarms of birds that threaten planes in mid-flight. The birds could be sucked into plane engines, destroying life and (very expensive) property. The macaques climb up trees where the birds nest, scaring them off, and leave behind a scent that discourages them from returning. 

 "The monkeys are loyal bodyguards who defend the safety of our comrades."

"The monkeys are loyal bodyguards who defend the safety of our comrades," a Chinese news source reported a PLA officer as saying.

The clever primates are being trained and used at air force base in northern China whose location was not disclosed, but which happens to sit along a major migratory route for birds heading south from the Gobi Desert. PLA officers have been joking that they have a new “secret weapon,” controllable with a whistle. 

CNN reports that, in the past, the PLA have employed several different strategies to remove the nests including shooting them out of the treetops, using long bamboo poles to knock them out of trees, and having soldiers climb the trees to remove them. None of these options have been very humanitarian, or very effective due to the birds’ tendency to return and the time-consuming task of removing them. However, when the task is carried out by monkeys, the birds do not return.

 When the nests of birds are discovered on tree tops, the monkey army is deployed to remove them.

But the real story here has much larger implications. If unpredictable swarms birds are all it takes to endanger Chinese military technology, and trained macaques are all it takes to bring down those birds, is this not exposing certain technological weaknesses in Chinese military capability? Why not use swarms of birds to take out China’s air forces on the battlefield? Perhaps the suggestion is ridiculous, but the rabbit hole could go much deeper. Just how strong are those turbine engines? We shouldn’t rule anything out when dealing with China. They certainly haven’t, as evidenced by their using little furry friends to fix this problem.

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