The Russian Navy has recently taken control of an elite dolphin combat unit in the Crimean city of Sevastopol, RIA Novosti reports, citing an employee at the dolphin facility.
The extensive training and expertise of the dolphins will reportedly be redirected from the Ukrainian Navy to serve the Russian Navy.
The Ukrainians were going to end the program in April, but now the dolphins belong to Russia.
From RIA Novosti:
The dolphins are trained to patrol open water and attack or attach buoys to items of military interest, such as mines on the sea floor or combat scuba divers trained to slip past enemy security perimeters, known as frogmen. Man-made sonar systems are often incapable of detecting such small objects in crowded environments such as harbors.
The dolphin program was originally developed in the 1960s by the Soviets but was handed over to the Ukrainian Navy following the dissolution of the USSR. Due to a lack of funding, the Ukrainians mainly kept the dolphins for civilian uses.
RIA Novosti’s source expressed hope that Russians would continue funding the military arm of the project, including new advances in mountable underwater sonar technology.
The only other country aside from the Soviet Union to have had a confirmed military dolphin program was the United States program based in San Diego. The U.S. Navy is primarily interested in dolphins, as well as sea lions, for their ability to locate sea mines.
The U.S. Navy insists that they never train marine animals for attack purposes, and that they are dedicated to the care and conservation of marine mammals.
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