The United States Air Force has recently published photographs of the force transporting US Navy dolphins in a heavy lift cargo. The photographs show 6 Mark 7 Marine Mammal Systems, also simply known as dolphins, onboard a C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft. The dolphins were being transported to an undisclosed location for training.

The United States Air Force first uploaded the pictures to social media. One image shows at least six Mark 7 dolphins in water filled cradles.

The number of dolphins the United States Navy operates is unknown, however the Navy utilizes these dolphins mostly for locating underwater mines. The Navy’s dolphins were last operated two years ago, as part of a biennial exercise.

Mark 7 dolphins have been trained to search and scout a certain area of water for underwater sea mines. When a Marine Mammal System locates an underwater mine, it releases a floating tag next to the mine. The floating tag marks the mine’s location so that humans can investigate and neutralize the threat, according to 

It may be uncommon seeing animals, that aren’t canines, operate as part of a modern military force. However, dolphins are very efficient and work very well, capable of scanning underwater areas much faster than human divers.

The United States is not the only nation to operate marine mammals in its military operations. The Russians have been known to operate several sea mammals themselves. Even the Iranians have purchased militarized sea mammals from the Ukranians twenty years ago, however it is not certain even these mammals are sent to missions or are even still alive.

Not much is known about the dolphins besides the pictures. According to the social media post, the aircraft was operated by a Maintenance Repair Team for the 60th Maintenance Squadron.