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US ARMY prepares force of GIGANTIC BOMB RATS

Massive war rodents 'like to lick your finger' - major

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More news this week from the perhaps surprisingly active field of US military combat rodent operations, as reports have it that Pentagon boffins are considering deployment of crack units composed of highly trained, enormous bomb rats into the Wars on Stuff.

These bomb rats, we should hasten to add, would not be explosive-laden kamikaze rodent assassins in the mould of the legendary "bombdogs" made famous by The Day Today.

Rather, the rats in question - African Giant Pouched Rats, to be precise - are highly trained to sniff out explosives. They have an advantage over the sniffer dogs sometimes employed on such tasks as, typically weighing less, they aren't as prone to set off mines and booby traps as they work.

Despite being almost describable as Rodents Of Unusual Size (ROUS - an African giant pouched rat can grow to be three feet long) they are apparently shy and docile and can make "wonderful pets".

"They're relatively charming," Major John Ringquist tells DefenseNews. "They like to lick your fingertips."

Ringquist, a US Army expert on sub-Saharan Africa, first encountered the rats during a trip to Tanzania where they are used by NGOs to detect landmines. The heroic rodents are reportedly quite willing to do such dangerous work for a modest salary paid in banana paste.

Impressed by the murine bomb-disposal operatives' effectiveness, Ringquist alerted the US Army Research Laboratory. A team of Pentagon boffins was despatched at once to Mozambique, where other rat squads are employed on the search for Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs, the primary threat to Western troops in modern conflicts, as opposed to landmines or other regular munitions manufactured in established arms factories).

"They were also convinced that [the rats are] highly effective," Ringquist tells DefenseNews.

It seems that the ranks of America's war rodents may soon be swollen by contingents of highly trained bomb-disposal rats stuffed to the gills with banana paste, joining the already well-established force of zombie mouse paratroopers currently engaged in the jungles of the Pacific. ®

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