trained dolphins and the u.s. Military
u.s. Navy marine mammal program in the 1960s, the u.s. Navy marine mammal program in san diego switched from studying dolphin’s swimming and acoustic ability to investigating their potential as vehicles of war. The navy also studied sea lions, beluga whales and other marine animals. [source: Tony perry, los angeles times, april 2007; dwight holing, discover, october 1988]
the dolphins were trained to respond to acoustic signals, such as the noise made by a toy cricket clicker, and they were give rewards of fish as positive reinforcement. Described as "marine operational systems," they performed best at retrieval tasks and identifying mines but were also taught to pull regulators from the mouths of divers and deploy bombs.
Dolphin sonar is considered better than anything used in the military. Trained dolphin can locate mines from a distance of several hundred meters with 100 percent accuracy. On several occasions the navy has said it would develop technology to make the use of dolphins obsolete but thus far it has been unable to achieve this goal. In the late 1990s the u.s. Government gave one group several million dollars to develop an electronic mine-detecting robot dolphin. The project proved to be too difficult and was dropped.
The navy denies that dolphins have been trained to carry explosives to blow up enemy vessels or kill anyone. They also say there is no truth to the claim that dolphins were trained to kill enemy frogmen with hollow lances worn over their beaks during the vietnam war.
A half dozen dolphins were sent to vietnam to protect cam rahn bay and locate potential saboteurs during the vietnam war. Five dolphins with a 25-man support team were sent the persian gulf during the iran-iraq war in the 1980s. In 1996, dolphins guarded the bay next to the san diego convention center during the republican convention. Soviet intelligence once claimed the cia planed to use dolphins to assassinate fidel castro.
The nefarious capabilities of dolphins was highlighted in the 1973 sci-fi thrilled day of the dolphin with george c. Scott. In the film evil corporate executives kidnap two talking dolphins and enlist them in a plan to assassinate the u.s. President by plowing up his yacht.
Current status of trained dolphins and the u.s. Military
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u.s. Navy marine mammal program as of 2007, there were 74 dolphins at the u.s. Navy facility at point loma, california, which also has 25 california sea lions (a navy beluga whale is kept nearby at seaworld). With the end of the cold war, the number of dolphins in the program was reduced from 95 to 75 and the "excess" dolphins were sold to theme parks in florida and the bahamas.
Dolphins outfit with cameras on their flippers were mobilized as minesweepers for the war in iraq from 2003 to 2005. The dolphins along with some sea lions were sent to the persian gulf in advance of the u.s. Invasion of iraq. At that time dolphin lovers sent a protest petition to the u.s. Department of defense stating: “no member of a civilized society should condone the abuse and exploitation of dolphins for military purposes.”
a 1990 presidential panel declared that dolphins were definitely non-combatants. The statements were made after rumors were spread, as they had in the past, that dolphins were being trained to use explosives, attack enemy ships and drag underwater terrorists to their deaths. When hurricane katrina hit the southeast united states, a british newspaper reported that navy killer dolphins had gotten loose in the gulf of mexico. In response to this and other similar assertions, the u.s. Navy website states: “the navy does not now train, nor has it ever trained its marine mammals to harm or injure humans in any fashion or to carry weapons to destroy ships.”
the controversy over the military applications of dolphins was back in the news in 2007 when it was announced that dolphins and sea lions were being considered for use as guards at the kitsap-bangor naval base in washington, home to the u.s.’s largest nuclear arsenal. The plan called for 30 dolphin and sea lions working in shifts---primarily at night when humans, even with detection equipment, tend be less effective---to guard the base, where trident submarines are based. Conservationists opposed the plan, claiming among other things that the cold water around the base harmed the dolphins, an assertion the navy refuted.
The dolphins working outside kitsap-bangor have a special device outfit on their snouts. When they encounter a swimmer they releases a flashing beacon on the surface which alerts security teams to the location of the swimmer. Dolphins and sea lions are are also on duty in waters off the submarine base in kings bay, georgia. Among them is toad, who is in her late 40s and served in vietnam. Some aspects of the navy dolphin and sea lion program remain secret such as the hearing and vison capabilities of the animals and how many soldiers accompany them to provide “force protection.”
trained dolphins and the soviet military
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u.s. Navy marine mammal program the kazachya naval base in sevastopol, ukraine had facilities for a special unit of 70 "killer dolphins" that had been trained to "seek, find and kill" frogmen, and sniff out mines and torpedoes and attach a special glue to metal ships that enabled navy personnel to blow the ships up. [source: Richard paddock, los angeles times, october 9, 2000]
the dolphins reportedly were taught to kill divers by a attaching a cigarette-box-size device that injected a lethal dose of carbon dioxide and were dropped from helicopters and planes with parachutes. They were used to locate sunken vessels, submarines and crashed planes. Some reportedly were killed in kamikaze missions with explosive strapped to their backs.
With the collapse of communism, the killer dolphin detachment suddenly found itself without funding and a mission. Attempts to persuade oil companies to take the dolphins were unsuccessful. As of the early 2000s, scientists were promoting dolphin therapy, charging $10 per session and promising to cure a wide range of ailments with their "natural ultrasound" and ability to improve people's auras. In most sessions people swim around with the dolphins in an outdoor pen with oil tanks and rusted naval ships nearby.
Kazachya also makes money with a dolphins show and charging money for pictures painted by dolphins (apparently painting for a dolphin is not all that different than disarming a mine). Some of the dolphins have been contracted out to dolphin shows in cyprus, saudi arabia, the united arab emirates, russia and other parts of the parts of the ukraine. The dolphins have also been trained to work on offshore oil rigs, locate accident victims at sea and do underwater exploration for geological surveys.