American And Russian Military-Trained Dolphins Could Battle It Out This Summer

| by Khier Casino

As tensions in Ukraine rise, military-trained dolphins from the United States and Russian navies could come face-to-face with each other for the first time.

The U.S. Navy's marine mammal unit plans to deploy 20 dolphins and 10 sea lions to take part in a NATO drill in the Black Sea this summer for one to two weeks, according to reports from the Russian newspaper Izvestia.

The use of dolphins for naval operations began in the Cold War by America and the USSR. Russia recently acquired the Ukrainian navy's mammals following Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea.

The dolphins are trained to attach buoys to mines, attack enemy divers and plant bombs, according to Russian news outlet RIA Novosti.

The drills and exercises would be testing a new anti-radar system in the Black Sea which is believed to "disorient enemy sonars, while sea lions and dolphins are looking for mines and military divers,” Tom LaPuzza, spokesman for the U.S. Navy's marine mammals program, is quoted in Izvestia's report as saying.

"In addition, we plan to test new armour for dolphins developed by a specialised research centre based in the University of Hawaii," added Lapuzza.

There are only two nations with such military dolphin programs in the world. One located in Sevastopol, Russia, and the other is under the operational control of the U.S. Navy in San Diego.

The maximum period of stay for any naval forces of any country, which does not have access to the Black Sea is 21 days, according to an international agreement.

The Wire notes that the U.S. dolphins will also have to adapt to different water temperatures and lower salinity of the Black Sea. The Navy did not say whether these conditions will affect the mammals' abilities to perform exercises.