Is the Russian navy guarded by fighting dolphins?

USNI, the US Naval Institute, has reported a troop of combat dolphins near Sevastopol guarding Russian warships.

Satellite images confirm that the dolphin enclosures at the entrance to Sevastopol Bay appeared in February, when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began. Presumably, specially trained aquatic mammals protect ships from saboteurs. However, not all dolphins are so lucky – since the outbreak of hostilities on the Turkish coast, more than 80 dead individuals have been found, reports The Guardian.

Scientists believe that increased noise pollution in the northern part of the Black Sea is pushing dolphins to the shores of Turkey and Bulgaria. At least 20 Russian warships are located there and active hostilities continue. Frightened and disoriented mammals swim away, and when they reach the coast of Turkey, they are thrown into the shallows.

Doctor of Biological Sciences Pavel Goldin, specialist in marine mammals, told in a conversation with UP, how the idea of ‚Äč‚Äčtraining and using combat dolphins came about. Its “ancestor” in the Soviet Union was naval officer Andrei Kalganov, a scout by profession and an adventurer by character. Upon learning that the United States had fighting dolphins, he began to actively promote the idea that the USSR should also get them.

The United States indeed, around 1950, became interested in the possibility of using dolphins for military purposes and built an aquarium in San Diego. There were scientific research and animal training. In the course of observations, it turned out that dolphins navigate in the water with the help of echolocation: they emit ultrasound, and then listen to how it comes back, having encountered an obstacle in its path. Today, this is a widely known fact that even children know about. But in the early 1950s, it became an outstanding scientific discovery.

Dolphin programs were funded in the same way as UFO sighting programs. Not that the possibility of using them in combat was seriously considered, but, having the means, they decided to try.

Kalganov decided to take advantage of a personal acquaintance with the then Commander-in-Chief of the Navy of the Soviet Union, Sergei Gorshkov, whose life he had saved during the war. Thanks to him, Kalganov received funds for the construction of a military dolphinarium. Already in the mid-1960s, swimming pools and enclosures for dolphins, a helipad and the infrastructure necessary for dolphin research were built in the Cossack Bay in Sevastopol.

In parallel with scientific research, fighting dolphins were trained in Sevastopol. At least they tried to do it. One of the tasks that they were given was to neutralize combat swimmers, that is, saboteurs. They even developed a special weapon – a bayonet-knife that was put on the head of a dolphin, and a special underwater pistol.

But … they have not caught any underwater saboteur over the years. And in general, notes Goldin, all these programs for the use of dolphins for combat purposes – both in the USA and in the USSR – turned out to be “puff”. In reality, no one used dolphins in battle. The only time the Americans tried it was during the Gulf War in 2003, when they tried to use dolphins to search for mines in the bottom sediments. The military said they did something. But it is impossible to verify this independently. Maybe someone found the mines, but they said it was a dolphin.

After the collapse of the Union, fighting dolphins from the Sevastopol Dolphinarium continued to provide a comfortable life for their “tormentors”, but in a peaceful way: they jumped through the ring and carried trainers on themselves to the delight of the public.

When Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, animals from the Sevastopol Dolphinarium were sent to “work” in Russia and, according to some unverified reports, in Kazakhstan. But later, the Russian military bought new dolphins to ostensibly train them for military operations. Probably the US Naval Institute reported about them.

Other countries did not do this. Probably because, Goldin says, it makes no practical sense. As for the US, it’s hard to say for sure, but the important thing is that again, it makes no sense. There is no positive practical experience of dolphins performing combat missions. In particular, it seems absurd that a dolphin can hold back any underwater saboteur. Just as absurd is the use of underwater saboteurs, as such. Nobody has seen them at all for the last 50 years, because this role is now successfully performed by robotic devices. Using dolphins for combat in the 21st century is like using war elephants today.

When asked by journalists about the death of dolphins on the coast of Turkey, Goldin answered this way:

During the fighting in the Black Sea, the radars of Russian ships and submarines, as well as the noise of numerous engines, create a real danger for dolphins. The sharp noise from the radar leads to the so-called acoustic trauma. Dolphins have damaged hearing organs, and they lose the ability to echolocation, that is, they cannot navigate in space. And because it’s trauma, they also experience pain. An acute injury can even be fatal, or it can turn out to be chronic, and then the dolphin partially loses the ability to fish. As for the so-called fighting dolphins at the entrance to the Sevastopol Bay, one can imagine how these unfortunate animals feel. Dolphins in war are not soldiers, but victims.

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