Putin deploys combat dolphins to take on Ukrainian commandos in Black Sea

The specially trained marine mammals were already deployed to guard his Black Sea Fleet’s main base in Crimea.

Putin deploys combat dolphins to take on Ukrainian commandos in Black Sea
Putin deploys combat dolphins to take on Ukrainian commandos in Black Sea
The move could be seen as a sign of desperation from Putin (Picture: Black Sea Fleet/ East2 West/AP)

Vladimir Putin’s navy has moved its fleet of combat dolphins closer to the front line in the Black Sea.

The specially trained marine mammals had already been deployed to help guard his Black Sea Fleet’s main base at the Sevastopol port in Crimea.

But satellite images now indicate floating pens have been installed at Novoozerne, closer to where Ukrainian special forces have made incursions and landed on the Crimean Peninsula. 

The dolphins are thought to have been deployed to detect enemy divers, plant limpet mines, or for reconnaissance.

Novoozerne is a former Soviet submarine base where Russia has deployed missile corvettes, landing craft and some support vessels including a submarine support ship, says OSINT researcher H I Sutton.

After analysing the photos to spot the dolphin pens, he told Naval News: ‘The deployment is likely to defend against Ukrainian special forces who present a real threat in the area.

OSINT analyst H I Sutton reported a recent move by Russian Black Sea Fleet of comban dolphins from Sevastopol, south of the occupied Crimea, further north and west of the peninsula
OSINT analyst H I Sutton reported a recent move by Russian Black Sea Fleet of combat dolphins from Sevastopol (Picture: NavalNews)

‘Trained dolphins are considered effective against military divers. 

‘There is no human, however athletic or well trained, who can out-swim them. And their inbuilt sonar gives them an even greater advantage.’

The deployment comes after Putin was forced to shift the bulk of his warships from Sevastopol to Novorossiysk following several Ukrainian missile and drone strikes.

The bottlenose dolphin squadron was conscripted by the Russian president when he seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. 

‘We had to practically start from scratch to teach the [mammals] to search for objects under the water because the Ukrainian Navy hardly worked with them,’ a Russian source said at the time. 

However, footage shows how dolphins have been trained to use underwater guns since Soviet times. 

An archival footage shows Black Sea Fleet's combat dolphin attacking a diver as part of a training
Archival footage shows a Black Sea Fleet combat dolphin attacking a diver as part of its training (Picture: Vesti Russia/e2w)
An archival footage shows underwater guns, used by Black Sea Fleet's combat dolphins
It also shows the mammals equipped with underwater guns (Picture: Vesti Russia/e2w)

Retired Captain Yury Plyachenko, a military trainer, explained: ‘The dolphin should have signalled, and if necessary, it was ordered to destroy an underwater saboteur.

‘It was armed with an underwater gun.’ 

A Russian state TV broadcast said: ‘This is what the underwater gun looked like. It was attached to a dolphin with a special fixture, and a mammal could shoot.’

Rare archive footage showed a dolphin attacking a diver.

‘The man had no chance in this battle,’ viewers were told. 

‘It was next to impossible for a diver to get to ships and stay unnoticed if dolphins were patrolling them.’

An archival picture of a combat dolphin, trained to patrol seas and destroy underwater saboteurs, in full combat gear
A model of one of the dolphins in full combat gear (Picture: Black Sea Fleet/e2w)
An archival picture of a diver with a Black Sea Fleet's combat dolphin, trained to patrol seas and destroy underwater saboteurs
They are trained to patrol seas and destroy underwater saboteurs (Picture: Black Sea Fleet/e2w)

The military dolphin training programme — long based in Sevastopol — dates back to the Cold War era when the Soviet Union utilised the animals to search for mines or spy on foreign ships.

Russia has kept silent about the current role of its naval dolphins and how they have coped with repeated explosions from Ukrainian missiles as well as both aerial and sea drones in Sevastopol. 

The dolphin deployment to Novoozerne – and in harm’s way – may indicate they are seen as militarily useful.

Putin’s forces appear increasingly worried about Ukraine targeting Crimea, and severing supply lines to the peninsula, as a prelude to recapturing the territory.

Or the dolphin move could suggest desperation from the Russians. 

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