War in Ukraine. Why dolphins were trained to fight alongside Russians


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The enclosures are now said to be at the “entrance to the port of Sevastopol”, which is home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet – a fleet beyond the reach of Ukrainian missiles but which is not therefore immune to acts of submarine sabotage. Faced with this threat, dolphins can play a key role, underlines HI Sutton, American specialist in submarines, in particular by preventing “Ukrainian special operations forces from infiltrating the port under water to sabotage ships of war. »

“Very effective in detecting a combat swimmer”

Dolphins have the highly coveted ability to spot swimmers, mines or other potentially dangerous objects that are difficult to detect, especially in coastal shallows or in crowded harbours. “The dolphin has an extraordinary ability to detect. It is a very effective animal, especially for detecting combat swimmers in shallow waters, ”adds a Western military source.

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“You have to keep in mind that the combat swimmer sails on pure oxygen, he doesn’t emit bubbles, he doesn’t emit noise, so to detect him you need active sonar, hence the interest of the dolphin,” she adds.

Aware of the potential of these mammals equipped with the most sophisticated sonar in the world, the United States and Russia began training programs for dolphins for military purposes in the 1960s.

Already used in the Vietnam War

“When the Soviet intelligence services learned what American dolphins were capable of doing in the 1960s, our military decided to take an interest in the question,” said retired Russian officer Viktor Baranets in 2016. . At their base in Crimea, the Soviet dolphins were trained in particular to place explosives on enemy ships and to detect abandoned torpedoes and wrecks at the bottom of the Black Sea, he explained.

Based in San Diego, the US Navy Mammal Program tested him a dozen different species of marine mammals, to retain in the end mainly only two: California sea lions and bottlenose dolphins. The latter cut their teeth during the Vietnam War, to detect combat swimmers, then during the second Gulf War for mine clearance operations.

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In concrete terms, “we send them to an area, they use echolocation to locate the mines, then they place a marker, a weight with a wire that will raise a small buoy to the surface. There we know that there is possibly something, ”explains French rear admiral (second section) Axel Moracchini.

Same approach to combat swimmers. The dolphin, equipped or not with a camera, detects then marks the location of the swimmer via a small beacon which will appear on the surface, adds the former clearance diver.

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Their redeployment a few decades later in the context of the war in Ukraine would therefore come as no surprise, at a time when kyiv claimed in quick succession that it had sunk the Russian cruiser Moskva and destroyed two Russian patrol boats near the island. to the Serpents.

Sea lions “not very effective in open water”

Russia is not at its first attempt. In 2018, dolphins from the Russian fleet had already been deployed to the naval base in Tartous, Syria according to Usni. With mobile enclosures “very similar” to those currently positioned in the port of Sevastopol. A year later, the discovery in Norway of a Beluga wearing a harness with the inscription “Equipment St Petersburg” fueled suspicions about possible military use by the Russians.

To date, in addition to Russia and the United States, two other countries have also developed military programs based on marine mammals: North Korea and Israel.

Others have tried the experiment, before finally giving up. “In 1914-18 Britain used circus seals to detect submarines but ultimately found them not very effective in open water,” Andrew Lambert, professor of naval history at King’s College, recalls. London.


Source: Le Progrès : info et actu nationale et régionale – Rhône, Loire, Ain, Haute-Loire et Jura | Le Progrès by www.leprogres.fr.

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