Dolphins to Make NATO History

NMMP dolphins, such as the one pictured here wearing a locating pinger, performed mine clearance work in the Persian Gulf during the Iraq War.

NMMP dolphins, such as the one pictured here wearing a locating pinger, performed mine clearance work in the Persian Gulf during the Iraq War.

Dolphins are to be deployed for combat drills in the Black Sea that will last about two weeks.

The United States Navy have been using mammals, principally California sea lions and bottlenose dolphins, since the 1960’s because of their intelligence, trainability and outstanding diving ability.

The research facility at Point Mugu, California, was started in 1962 and began with the intention of studying the mammals sonar and deep diving capabilities. They were studied to discover just how they might be useful in performing certain tasks such as searching for and marking items in the water.

According to Wikipedia, “A Major accomplishment was the discovery that trained dolphins and sea lions could be reliably worked untethered in the open sea.”

The Navy Marine Mammal Program, based in San Diego, California, trains the mammals to detect sea mines and were used in the Persian Gulf during the Iraq War in 2003, detecting over 100 “booby traps.”

Later this year, while at the Black Sea, the U.S. dolphins will “test a new anti-radar system, designed to disorientate enemy sonar,” according to Ukraine Timeline. “Both sea lions and dolphins will look for mines and military divers.” The mammals will be training in the areas of mine detection and the protection of harbors and ships.

Getting the mammals to the Black Sea is another story and one not without controversy. The plan is to transfer them in a plane that has been equipped with large holding baths. This is no small task. Yury Plyachenko was  in command of  “the Black Sea Fleet’s military dolphins in 1988-92,” according to Ukraine Timeline, and stated the “transportation of U.S. combat dolphins to the Black Sea by air is a very expensive task which comes with a huge risk to the health of the animals.”

“There must be a very good reason to make the animals travel over such distances in a plane. We shouldn’t forget that a lot of money was invested into their training,” Plyachenko stated.

It will no be long before we start hearing an outcry of protest from animal rights groups and Greenpeace, Plyachenko indicated. He later reminded the press that, “During the USSR, the soviet Navy planned to take their dolphins to the Mediterranean Sea for training, but the exercise was cancelled under pressure from the international community,” reports Ukraine Timeline.

Flying the mammals to their destination in’t the only problems the Navy faces. There has been controversy surrounding the use of mammals for military use. Though in accordance with strict policies in the care and handling of the Navy mammals, there is intense opposition.

Animal rights activists state that the animals are under undue stress do to the nature of the work they are doing and are outraged by the use of anti-foraging apparatuses, such as muzzles, during their training exercises. According to Wikipedia, the muzzles are to keep them from swallowing object that could hurt them but the opponents say that’s not true and that they (Navy) use the muzzles as a way to control the mammals.

However you feel about mammals in our military, one thing is certain. Dolphins will be flying into the U.S. history books if they are transported to the Black Sea as the first dolphins to participate in NATO war games.

By, Lorra B. Chief writer for Silent Soldier




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