Russia’s Defense Ministry is seeking to purchase at least five dolphins to use in military tasks, reviving a Cold War project.
From the AFP:
The military has opened the bidding on a 1.75m ruble (£17,000) contract to deliver dolphins to the military in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol by 1 August, according to a document uploaded on Wednesday to the government’s procurement website.
According to public contract documentation, it is seeking two female and three male dolphins between three and five years old with perfect teeth and no physical impairments.
The Soviet Union and United States used combat dolphins during the Cold War. The militaries trained the mammals “to detect submarines, underwater mines and spot suspicious objects or individuals near harbours and ships.”
“Americans looked into this first,” explained retired Colonel Viktor Baranets, who ran the program to train dolphins. “But when Soviet intelligence found out the tasks the US dolphins were completing in the 1960s, the defence ministry at the time decided to address this issue.”
Russia inherited Ukraine’s combat dolphins after Moscow annexed Crimea in March 2014. The dolphins stayed in Crimea after the USSR dissolved, used in swimming therapy with disabled children.
The Ukrainian Army restarted the program in 2012 but ended it in February 2014, towards the end of Euromaiden. Russia then announced plans to keep the dolphins.
“Our experts have developed new devices, which convert the detection of objects by the dolphins’ underwater sonar to a signal on an operator’s monitor,” said an employee. “But the Ukrainian Navy lacked the funds for such know-how, and some projects had to be shuttered.”
In July 2014, Ukraine demanded Russia return the dolphins.
“The military dolphins need to be returned to our country in the same way that Russia returned Ukraine’s seized military equipment,” said Dmitry Yunusov, first deputy head of the Henichesk Regional State Administration.
A few months later, it was confirmed that the Russian military has continued training the dolphins to use in military combat. The task force includes 13 dolphins and sea lions.
Three dolphins abandoned their posts in 2013 to look for love.
“They deserted a naval exercise and went on manoeuvres of an amorous kind,” said one source. “They swam away to look for mates.”
The dolphins eventually returned.
“If a male dolphin saw a female dolphin during the mating season, then he would immediately set off after her. But they come back in a week or so,” said Yury Plyachenko, a former Soviet naval anti-sabotage officer.