Government website exposes plan to revive Soviet-era use of marine mammals for combat operations

Russias defence ministry is looking to buy five dolphins, the government has exposed, as the country strives to revive its Soviet-era use of ocean mammals for military tasks.

The military has opened the bid on a 1.75 m ruble( 17,000) contract to deliver dolphins to the military in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol by 1 August, according to official documents uploaded on Wednesday to the governments procurement website.

According to public contract documentation, it is seeking two female and three male dolphins between three and five years old with perfect teeth and no physical impairments.

An unnamed source told the RIA Novosti state news agency in March 2014 that new training programmes were being designed to stimulate the dolphins serve Russias military interests.

Dolphins were used by the Soviet Union and United States at the high levels of the cold war, having been training to detect submarines, underwater mines and spot suspicious objects or individuals near the ports and ships.

Retired Colonel Viktor Baranets, who find military dolphin training in the Soviet and post-Soviet eras, said that the sea mammals were part of the broader cold war limbs race between the USSR and the United States.

Americans looked into this first, Baranets said. But when Soviet intelligence found out the tasks the US dolphins were completing in the 1960 s, the defence ministry at the time decided to address this issue.

Baranets added that combat dolphins in the Soviet era were trained to plant explosive devices on adversary boats and knew how to detect abandoned torpedoes and sunken ships in the Black Sea.

Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in March 2014 amid international indignation, has housed this training facility since 1965.

The training centre was severely forgot after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Baranets said, and its dolphins were reportedly sold to Iran.

The Ukrainian navy re-established the centre in 2012, but Russias land grab two years later considered Crimeas combat dolphins fall under Moscows control.

The defence ministry could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

The US navy also use ocean mammals to carry out military tasks, with ocean lions deployed to Bahrain in 2003 to supporting Operation Enduring Freedom after the 9/11 attacks.

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