Russia Looking To Buy Military Dolphins

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A recent tender by Russia’s Ministry of Defence shows that the country is seeking to procure five dolphins, likely to relaunch a Soviet-era programme using the sea mammals for military missions.

According to the tender, uploaded to the government’s procurement website, the military is accepting bids on a 1.75 million ruble ($25,000) contract to deliver the dolphins by 1 August to the military base in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol, where the dolphin training programme resided since 1965.

Russia is looking to acquire two female and three male dolphins between three and five years old, according to public documents. The specimens are to have perfect teeth and no physical impairments.

Ukraine’s military requested in July 2014 that Russia returns “its” dolphins, that the latter captured in the annexation of Crimea earlier in the same year.

Programmes such as this are not unique to the post-Soviet sphere, and the United States had its own long-standing dolphin-training operation that was wound down in 2012. During the Cold War both sides trained dolphins to perform a variety of missions, including detecting underwater mines, submarines, suspicious objects. Reportedly, the dolphins were train to attack suspicious divers and maim or kill them, plant explosive devices on enemy vessels, and more.

Dolphins were part of the larger arms race between the cold war foes, according to Retired Colonel Viktor Baranets. “Americans looked into this first,” he said. “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.”

Dolphins are not the only sea creatures called to action by the world’s militaries. The US deployed sea lions to Bahrain in 2003 in a supporting role during Operation Enduring Freedom.