In an attempt to bolster its naval protection, the Russian Navy has deployed trained military dolphins at its Black Sea naval base to protect its fleet from an underwater attack by divers or Swimmer Delivery Vehicles, SDVs.

Naval analyst H I Sutton on Twitter was the first to determine the usage of naval military dolphins by Russian in Sevastopol. While the Sevastopol harbor is out of range for Ukrainian missiles, it is not out of range for Ukrainian Special Forces to attack Russian naval vessels docked in the harbor. Until the recent sinking of the Russian cruiser Moskva, the Kremlin had taken a dim view of Ukrainian naval operational ability, they appear to be taking nothing for granted now.

According to Sutton, satellite images of the Sevastopol harbor appear to show two dolphin pens were present at the entrance to the anchorage at Sevastopol Sutton says that the move could be a preventive measure against Ukrainian special forces sabotaging and destroying Russian warships as marine animals have been trained in the past for these specific purposes.

Not A New Military Program

Russia has an extensive history of using marine animals including dolphins and beluga whales for military purposes (particularly during the Cold War), specifically for them to retrieve objects, monitor waters for enemies and attacks, or sweep for mines.

The SOFREP team, led by Editor-in-Chief Sean Spoonts had recently discussed the history of the Soviet Union and its usage of various marine animals for military uses. One particular account he remembered was of the Soviet Navy’s research and training facility at Kazachya Bukhta. He remembered a Beluga whale trained by the Soviet military, which escaped twice in 1991 and 1992 and showed up in Turkey causing a mildly amusing international incident as the Russians attempted to recover the whale over the protests of Turkish locals who adopted it as a kind of pet.

SOFREP has actually written about this incident the past. This particular Beluga whale was called Tichka, who escaped the Biotechnical Systems Institute of the Russian military base situated in Sevastopol while a strong storm raged on. The storm opened the sea pens and off went Tichka to the open waters.

Aydin, or Tichka, showing the scar on his upper right lip. From A Farewell to Whales by Pierre Béland, photographer unknown (Dolphin Project). Source:
Aydin, or Tichka, showing the scar on his upper right lip. From A Farewell to Whales by Pierre Béland, photographer unknown (Dolphin Project)

Tichka would then wander the Black Sea for months till he arrived in Gerze, Turkey in January 1992. Being accustomed to people being around him, he was loved by the locals and tourists due to the whale’s ability to do tricks. Eventually, he would be renamed “Aydin” meaning “the enlightened” or “the clever one” in Turkish. When he was handed back to the Russians in April of 1992, Tichka escaped again due to a storm in November 1992 and went back to Gerze. He would be last seen in 1993 before vanishing completely.

The program of training marine animals for military purposes would move very much into the shadows when the slow-motion train wreck of the Soviet Union’s collapse occurred from 1989 to 1992. The marine program was taken over by Ukraine when it declared independence and its territory included Crimea and Sevastopol naval base. Ukraine wanted to bring it back up to full operations only to see itself invaded by Russia and see it annex Crimea where the program was based. The Russians then attempted to reconstitute the program itself.