Russia Bolsters Black Sea Defense With Military Dolphins

As tensions continue to escalate in the ongoing Ukraine war, the Russian Navy is making waves with an unexpected form of defense. According to recent British intelligence reports, Russia has doubled down on its use of marine mammals to enhance the security of its Black Sea Fleet’s main base at Sevastopol, in Russian-controlled Crimea.

Satellite imagery provides undeniable evidence of Russia’s move to expand its marine mammal defenses. A significant increase in floating mammal pens indicates that Russia is raising its numbers of trained dolphins to counter potential threats. This tactic is familiar in the realm of maritime security.

“The Soviet Navy started training marine animals during the Cold War,” the U.K. Ministry of Defence revealed. These animals, including dolphins, seals, and beluga whales, have been used to detect mines, submarines, and suspicious objects for decades.

These recent developments are taking place amid escalating conflict in the region. As Moscow tightens security measures following drone attacks on the Black Sea Fleet, the Ukrainian government continues to deny involvement.

Interestingly, this strategic move by the Russians echoes a tactic long used by the U.S. Navy. Since the 1960s, the U.S. Navy has also trained dolphins and sea lions for underwater operations, underscoring these mammals’ vital role in naval operations. The longest recorded dolphin dive stands at nearly 1,000 feet, while sea lions can reach depths between 450 and 900 feet.

Russia’s deployment of aquatic allies doesn’t stop with dolphins. A beluga whale first spotted in Norway in 2019, aptly named ‘Hvaldimir’ (a combination of the Norwegian word for whale – Hval – and Russian President Vladimir Putin), was suspected of being a spy for the Russian Navy. Russian officials have yet to confirm these suspicions despite being spotted again in Sweden this year.

Whether in the form of a bottlenose dolphin or a harness-wearing beluga whale, marine mammals are increasingly playing a role in global geopolitics.

It’s worth noting that the U.S. Navy attempted to replace its marine animal program with advanced technology in 2022. However, Congress stalled the move until the Navy could demonstrate that new systems were superior to the current mine-detecting dolphins.

Here is a 2022 report on Russia’s use of military-trained dolphins: