Crimean combat dolphins join Russian Navy

The Russian Navy will have the means to continue special training for combat dolphins and seals. Source: Avatar/wikimedia.org

The Russian Navy will have the means to continue special training for combat dolphins and seals. Source: Avatar/wikimedia.org

The dolphins, which were used by the Ukrainian Navy, will be used to search for sunken objects and military equipment, as well as for the detection of frogmen.

Crimean combat Dolphins will now serve in the Russian Navy, and the Sevastopol State Aquarium is preparing to start training the mammals for new programs in the interests of the Russian fleet, a source in the aquarium said on the condition of anonymity.

The first use of dolphins for military purposes began in the United States in 1960. The mammals participated in the Gulf War. In the USSR, a research centre for combat dolphin training opened on the coast of the Black Sea in 1965 where combat dolphins were mainly used to patrol the entrances to the naval base, detect potential enemy divers and search for mines. For some time, bomber dolphins were also being trained and were to be responsible for the defeat of enemy ships.

Previously, the fighting bottlenose dolphins and fur seals were trained under Soviet programs. The Ukrainian military resumed the training only in 2012. After Crimea voted to join the Russian Federation, the aquarium and the dolphins became Russian.

“Engineers are developing new aquarium technologies for new programs to more efficiently use dolphins under water,” the source, noting that dolphins and seals will be used to search for sunken objects and military equipment as well as for the detection of frogmen.

The combat equipment for the mammals is believed to be very outdated.

“Our specialists developed new devices that convert dolphins’ underwater sonar detection of targets into a signal to the operator's monitor. But the Ukrainian Navy lacked funds for such know-how, and some projects had to be closed,” said an associate of the aquarium. He expressed hopes that the Russian Navy will have the means to continue special training for combat dolphins and seals.

“To make a killer or a kamikaze out of a dolphin is not harder than to the same with a dog. But the results will be just about the same. Eventually the military will have to abandon the use of combat dolphins just as they have with combat dogs, combat camels, combat elephants and even horses,”said RIA Novosti commentator Sergei Petukhov. According to him, the main problem in dolphin training is the need to teach them how to distinguish “us” from “them.”

“It is possible to teach a dolphin to distinguish a comrade from a stranger if you mark strangers with any type of label - visual, chemical, acoustic , hydro-acoustic. But the war flag of strangers, for obvious reasons, will not work. We will have to mark our comrades,” Petukhov added.

Today, there are only two combat dolphin training centres in the world based San Diego (USA) and Sevastopol.

However, this problem is only partially solved.

“If the task was to teach the mammals to bring over marked objects with their snout, a high rate of success could be achieved. But to teach the mammals to not touch the marked objects, but to chase all the others regardless of their shape, size, smell, vibration and the like, is much more complicated. The probability of error increases to dangerous levels,” noted Petukhov.

First published in Russian by RIA Novosti.

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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