Five trainable dolphins are sought by the Russian military to carry out special tasks for the country’s Navy in the Black Sea, the government revealed on Wednesday.
The Russian Defense Ministry placed a 1.75 million ruble ($24,000) contract on the government procurement website to acquire military sea mammals for the country’s Navy.
The dolphins, three males and two females, are expected to be delivered to the Crimean city of Sevastopol, the home base of the Russian Black Sea fleet, by August 1, 2016.
Contract documentation details that all animals should be between three and five years of age, have perfect teeth, and be in good physical condition.
According to an unnamed source speaking with RIA Novosti, the dolphins will serve in the framework of Russia’s new maritime military program, in development since 2014.
Using animals such as dolphins for military purposes is not new. Both the US and the Soviet Union engaged cetaceans in military activities during the Cold War era. Dolphins were trained to detect suspicious objects, like submarines and mines, in the vicinity of important port infrastructure.
“Americans looked into this first,” Viktor Baranets, a retired Russian Colonel, said of the practice of using dolphins for military purposes. “But when Soviet intelligence found out the tasks the US dolphins were completing in the 1960s, the defense ministry at the time decided to address this issue.”
Soviet military dolphins were highly skillful, and could plant explosive devices on enemy vessels and detect abandoned torpedoes and sunken ships, Barents said. But after the dissolution of the USSR, all sea mammals in service were reportedly sold to Iran.