Readings — From the May 2013 issue

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From an exchange last summer between Jean-Pierre Decool, a member of the French National Assembly, and Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. Translated from the French by Jess Cotton.


Jean-Pierre Decool directs the attention of the Defense Minister to the use of the carrier pigeon in armed conflict. In the event of armed conflict, a general breakdown in communication networks might occur. In such circumstances, the carrier pigeon would become the sole remaining tool to transmit messages. Currently, the French army employs just one military pigeon, at the Mont Valérien base. Decool urges the Minister to indicate, given the current state of our infrastructure, whether the French army’s communicative capacity will be safeguarded.


The Defense Minister’s strategy, in terms of controlling information, is to guarantee, in all circumstances, the relay of vital data to decision makers, using technologies that possess their own electrical supply and are resistant to cybernetic and electromagnetic threats. The communicative capacity of the army will thus be preserved in the event of major conflict, whatever the state of civil infrastructure. As the honorable Member of Parliament points out, the carrier pigeon has throughout history proved of certain interest in military operations. Reliable and hardy, it has enabled the military to free itself from the grips of insecure means of land communication. The army therefore makes use of Europe’s last military pigeon. France has an additional 20,000 amateur pigeon keepers capable of providing invaluable support in the event of the impairment of civil telecommunication networks.

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