Crimea’s ‘Combat Dolphins’ Change Allegiance Roland Oliphant / The Telegraph & Harry Wallop / The Telegraph & Catherine Elsworth / The Telegraph – 2014-04-02 00:20:28
Crimea’s Combat Dolphins Find Themselves a New Master
Ukraine’s pod of elite fighting dolphins have “defected” to Russia — and are unlikely to return
Roland Oliphant / The Telegraph
MOSCOW (March 20, 2014) — While Russia has promised to hand over the Ukrainian military kit it captured during the annexation of Crimea, one unit will probably have to remain behind.
The marine mammal training program in Sevastopol’s Cossack Bay has trained dolphins and other sea creatures for navy work since 1965.
The dolphins are trained to identify underwater obstacles, locate missing kit, and fight and even kill enemy frogmen.
Legend has it they were also trained to attach limpet mines to enemy vessels or even carry out “kamikaze” attacks against enemy submarines — using their natural sonar to distinguish enemy from Soviet submarines by their engine noise.
They are a unique asset — the only other navy to maintain a dolphin force is the US navy, which trains marine mammals including sea lions at a facility in San Diego.
Unlike the Soviet dolphins, their American counterparts are — at least officially — never used for combat.
But like may Soviet servicemen, the dolphins fell on hard times with the end of the Cold War. Underfunded and unneeded, the unit rebranded as a tourist attraction and centre for therapeutic swimming in the 1990s.
By 2000 the animals and their trainers were so impoverished that one trainer took a large number of animals, including a Beluga whale, to Iran — saying that the Islamic Republic had at least promised to make sure they were fed properly.
Ukraine relaunched the military program in 2012, and the current generation of dolphins at the centre are already proficient at marking lost weapons and underwater obstacles with buoys.
But they were facing the axe again as recently as February, when the defence ministry in Kiev announced plans to release the dolphins into the wild or rehouse them in civilian aquariums in a cost cutting move.
Following the Russian take over, the dolphins will probably stay — unlike tanks and ships, they cannot simply be parked in another field or docked in another port — and workers at the dolphinarium have said they hope the Russian navy will be able to provide the investment that was sorely lacking from the Ukrainian ministry of defence.
Animal Soldiers: Hannibal’s Elephants
To Ukraine’s Killer Dolphins
The strange and secret history of military attack animals
Harry Wallop / The Telegraph
(March 31, 2014) — It sounds like a sketch dreamed up by Monty Python: the Ukrainian Navy’s secret unit of attack dolphins has defected to Russia.
Borys the Bottlenose has jumped ship, or rather swum under the ship, and taken his fellow dolphins, capable of laying mines, attacking divers and spotting submarines, with him.
It turns out that when Vladimir Putin sent his troops into Crimea he was interested not just in extending Russia’s territory, but its crew of killer cetacean mammals, too.
The story, however is completely true. An employee of the Russian navy said they had exciting plans for their latest spoils of war: “Our experts have developed new devices, which convert the detection of objects by the dolphins underwater sonar to a signal on an operator’s monitor.”
The killer dolphins are a reminder that animals have often been used in warfare — not just as beasts of burden, trusty steeds or loyal mascots, but also as front-line soldiers. The huge number of horses killed during World War I is well documented — nearly one horse perished for every two men killed and, in total, an estimated 16 million animals served during the war.
But what is less well known is the long history of reptiles, birds and mammals used as actual combatants.
One of the earliest recorded uses of attack animals was during the Diadochi wars in around 300BC. A good century before Hannibal’s legendary trek across the Alps using elephants, the huge beasts were being harnessed. But it was believed that elephants were scared of even a small squeal.
So, the Megarians poured oil on a herd of pigs, set them alight, and drove them towards the enemy’s massed war elephants. The elephants bolted in terror at the sight and sound of the screaming pigs. Wouldn’t you? Whether the victorious Megarians feasted on barbecued pork to celebrate is unknown.
Generals in the Song dynasty of China liked to dress monkeys in straw waistcoats, dip them in oil and torch them before releasing them towards the enemy’s camp. The idea was that the enemy’s tents would soon be ablaze.
This, in some ways, is little different from the tactic used by Russians during World War II, when they strapped bombs to the backs of dogs in an attempt to blow up the invading German tanks.
The logic was sound — the underside of a German Panzer is surprisingly vulnerable. And the dogs were trained thoroughly, with 12 specialised anti-tank dog schools set up run by Red Army Mary Whitehouses, who placed food under tanks to teach them to scurry under the vehicles. On their back they had a wire sticking up, which would set off the bomb — and the accompanying canine — the moment it touched the tank.
In practice, the entire operation was a disaster. Out of the first group of 30 dogs to be used, only four managed to detonate their bombs near the German tanks. Six exploded upon returning to the Soviet trenches, killing and injuring their human comrades. And the dogs had been trained without the noise of gunfire going off in their ears, meaning most ran away scared.
An even more ambitious plan was hatched by the Americans who strapped tiny incendiary bombs to the bodies of bats, which they intended to release over Japanese cities. The idea was that they would roost in the eaves of traditional wooden houses, blow up and wreak havoc. In training they detonated a US army base, however, and the plan was abandoned.
The animals-as-bombs trick, however, refuses to go away. Insurgents in Iraq used suicide dogs and only last year a donkey, laden with explosives, killed three US soldiers in eastern Afghanistan.
Terry Charman, senior historian at the Imperial War Museum, says: “In World War I, 100,000 pigeons were used. But in World War II — despite the development of radar — 200,000 pigeons were used. It’s staggering, in today’s increasingly mechanised warfare, how animals continue to be used.”
In part, this is because they can be very sophisticated, not least the dolphin spies used by both the Americans and Russians. Bottlenose dolphins and Californian sea lions were recruited into the US Navy Marine Mammal Programme from the 1960s onwards, using their incredible echolocation skills to find enemy submarines, deliver equipment to divers and even to hold cameras in their mouths in order to film enemy movements.
The Ukrainian unit — inherited from the Soviets on independence in 1991 — was also trained to attack enemy divers using harpoons strapped to their backs.
The only problem with dolphins is they are just too clever. Some disobey their human commanders — various Ukrainian dolphins who went AWOL during a recent mating season were last spotted somewhere in Iranian waters. They found, quite sensibly, that it was more enjoyable to make love, not war.
Perhaps they could teach Mr Putin a thing or two.
US Navy to Use Dolphins for Security
Catherine Elsworth / The Telegraph
LOS ANGELES (February 14, 2007) — The US Navy wants to bolster security at a West Coast military base by deploying dozens of dolphins and sea lions trained to detect and intercept waterborne attackers.
The mammals would scour the sea for risks and alert officials to terrorist swimmers and divers targeting Kitsap-Bangor naval base near Seattle, in Washington State.
In a notice published this week, the navy said it needed to step up security at the base, which is home to submarines, ships and laboratories and considered vulnerable to offshore terrorist attacks.
It is examining several options but the favourite plan would involve sending around 30 California sea lions and Atlantic bottlenose dolphins from the Navy’s Marine Mammal Programme, based in San Diego.
US Uses Sea Lions in Terrorism Fight
Our Foreign Staff / The Telegraph
(November 25, 2009) — Expert Gremlin, a Californian sea lion, showcased his skills at a US Navy demonstration watched by officials at the Nato Underwater Research Centre at La Spezia bay, Italy, in October.
Handlers from the US Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Centre Pacific (SSC Pacific), based in San Diego, were displaying the super-trained animal’s unique abilities to European Nato staff.
America will now begin using seals at one of their top Naval bases in Washington State to patrol for terrorists as part of a drive launched after the 9/11 attacks.
The super-skilled sea lion showed how one of his tasks was to assist dolphins and Navy divers train for mine sweeping during war.
He swam down to a fake version of the dangerous device and attached a clamp so it could be reeled in by his keepers.
In combat situations, such as during Operation Iraqi Freedom dolphins were enlisted by the US Navy to plant markers that emit radio signals next to submerged mines.
During training for mine sweeping practice, the sea lions are conditioned to recognise various shapes of water mines.
Ann Dakis, a spokesperson for SSC Pacific, said: “In training, sea lions are shown practice mines and from continual practice they learn to recognise what they are looking for.”
The animals can also be fitted with a special harness attached to a lead, which allows trainers to keep track of them while they are hunting for underwater objects.
Cameras can be fitted to the harness giving military staff live video images from under the surface. When they are not helping dolphins and humans train to find explosives, sea lions patrol harbours and try to stop enemy divers trying to sneak into friendly waters undetected.
More spectacular perhaps are the sea lions ability to detain intruder divers whilst underwater.
“We have trained sea lions to attach a leg cuff, just like hand cuffs, but fitted on a diver’s thigh,” said Tom LaPuzza, a spokesperson for the Biosciences Division of SSC Pacific.
“The device works in the same way as handcuffs. Once they are on, they cannot come off. A line is attached to the cuffs and the other end is held by security forces on a nearby boat. The human forces can then reel in the intruder and take him or her aboard for questioning.”
Animals are used instead of humans because they are at home in the water and perform best.
US Navy bosses have now chosen to put in place a team of sea lions and dolphins at one of its top coastal bases. The marine mammals will patrol the Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Washington State, on the American west coast.
A Department of Defence statement said: “The marine mammals would respond to security alerts by finding, identifying, and interdicting intruders.”
“When an intruder is identified, the animal locating the intruder would be provided with marking hardware to localise the intruder and interdiction hardware to enable apprehension of the intruder by security personnel. The Navy marine mammals would also participate in periodic training exercises.”
The US Navy currently have 28 California Sea Lions, 80 Atlantic and Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins and one Beluga whale in service.
The American forces first began training marine mammals in the early 1960s. They were first put to use between 1970-71 during the Vietnam War where they were brought in to protect the US Army ammunition pier in Cam Ranh Bay.
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