Two members of the Austrian special forces join Nato’s Operation Cold Response, one of Europe’s biggest military exercises, in Narvik, Norway.
“Dogs don’t perceive height difference, so that doesn’t worry them. They’re more likely to be bothered by the roar of the engines, but once we’re on the way down, that doesn’t matter and they just enjoy the view,” said the dog handler. “It’s something he does a lot. He has a much cooler head than most recruits.”
Commandos from 14 countries, including British special forces and Royal Marines, took part in the Nato exercise. The use of dogs in High Altitude High Opening missions was pioneered by America’s Delta Force, which trained the animals to breathe through oxygen masks during the jump.
The SAS has adapted similar techniques and, according to special forces sources, bought a number of American-trained dogs for use in Iraq and Afghanistan. The dogs used by the British are fitted with a head camera, allowing special forces to see inside insurgent compounds, and Kevlar body armour.
As well as reconnaissance, the animals are trained to attack anyone carrying a weapon, although it is claimed that they will not attack those who are unarmed.
Two SAS dogs are reported to have died on raids in Iraq. Thor and Scotty were killed in 2008 when British special forces waged a successful campaign to destroy al-Qaeda’s bombing networks in Baghdad. Both animals are remembered on a stone memorial at the SAS headquarters in Hereford.