To Be Clear, Velociraptors Would Make Terrible Weapons
‘Jurassic World’ wants to deploy dinosaurs to Afghanistan
Look, Jurassic World is not a smart movie. Fun, yes. Pretty to look at, occasionally. But intelligent? No.
Mild spoilers follow.
Consider the concept that drives many of the film’s most important events — the idea that InGen, the creator of the dinosaur theme park’s genetically-engineered thunder lizards, could weaponize the once-extinct giant lizards and deploy them to Afghanistan. “Imagine if we’d had these at Tora Bora,” one InGen employee purrs as he observes a pack of bipedal velociraptors on the hunt.
Dinosaurs are fun. Scary, even, as they run rampant in Jurassic World. But let’s be clear about one thing. They’d make terrible weapons.
Take the predatory velociraptors, which InGen imagines would have been so useful in Tora Bora, the cave complex in eastern Afghanistan where, in late 2001, U.S. troops fought an intense battle with Taliban and Al Qaeda militants and possibly narrowly missed capturing Osama Bin Laden.
In fact, the roughly man-size “raptors” in the Jurassic Park series are actually members of the species Deinonychus rather than true velociraptors, which in reality were small, birdlike creatures. In any event, there are lots of reasons the raptors wouldn’t have helped out in Afghanistan.
Nobody likes getting eaten, especially by something as alien-looking as a huge lizard. So raptor dino-soldiers could have a certain psychological effect, essentially as terror weapons.
But terror wears off. And in strict kinetic terms, a 200-pound Deinonychus is about as dangerous as a cassowary, a modern flightless bird that’s roughly as big as a Deinonychus and even boasts similar claws. Nor is Deinonychus particularly fast — slower, for sure, than modern ostriches.
And Deinonychus is a strictly close-combat weapon, capable of inflicting damage to unarmored targets only at very close range.
A typical human rifleman, by contrast, can reliably hit targets hundreds of yards away.
It’s a truism of military planning that you need at least three of one thing — a warship, fighter squadron or infantry battalion — in order to maintain one on the front line. The other two are resting from, or preparing for, their own turns in combat.
So you’d need a dozen raptors to sustain a single four-animal squad in combat. And given the limitations of Deinonychus in combat, you’d probably want several squads on the front line at any given time.
Let’s just call it 50 raptors. How much would they cost to genetically engineer from fossil DNA and frog embryos? Jurassic World doesn’t say definitively, but the word “billions” gets thrown around a lot — and that for an enterprise that seems to include just four Deinonychus.
All that to say — dino-troopers could make the F-35 look cheap.
Even if you could find a useful application for your raptors’ limited weapons-effect, and even if you could afford to generate an adequate number of the lizard-warriors, you’re going to struggle to sustain your Deinonychus squads … especially in a country like Afghanistan.
A cassowary eats up to 25 pounds of fruit, insects and small animals every day plus whatever small quantities of water a bird needs. For a strapping young raptor in combat, let’s double the ration to 50 pounds of fresh meat. By contrast, a human infantryman can survive indefinitely, albeit unhappily, on a couple one-pound Meals Ready to Eat plus a few quarts of water a day.
And raptors don’t travel alone. You’ve got to ship reinforced metal cages for their lodging, each of which could require an entire C-130 transport plane to haul around. Logistically, that’s a lot of overhead for a niche close-combat weapon.
Command and control
Good luck getting your war-lizards to follow orders. The dinos in Jurassic World are unreliable, at best — and downright treasonous, at worst. InGen works hard to imprint its baby Deinonychus on human handlers, who then train and condition the animals as they grow up. And still, the raptors eat more than a few of their human teammates.
Basically, the raptors have two settings. 1) Pace pensively in metal cage and 2) attack! In the age of the “strategic corporal,” where small decisions by young squad leaders can have profound political implications, dinosaur combatants are a scandal waiting to happen.
Back during the height of the Iraq war, Iraqis in the British occupation zone somehow came to believe that the U.K. armed forces had released giant, man-eating badgers in the city of Basra, all in some bizarre plot to terrorize the civilian population.
It wasn’t true — and God knows how the rumor got started. Now imagine squads of Deinonychus running loose in eastern Afghanistan, ostensibly hunting terrorists but also eating any goats, pet cats and children they happen across. The U.S. military should aim to win hearts and minds, not unleash pricey, out-of-control, weaponized kill-lizards to eat the hearts and minds of everything in sight.