Dolphins’ intelligence and biological sonar make them a valuable asset to many of the world’s military organizations, including the U.S. In fact, Naval Base Kitsap uses military dolphins to protect roughly 25% of the country’s nuclear stockpile.
What are U.S. military dolphins?
The dolphins are part of the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program, which used dolphins for the first time during Vietnam. The details of the program are secret. But we do know that both dolphins and sea lions are trained for different types of tasks. They’re used for recovery missions, defense tasks, and mine clearing.
At Naval Base Kitsap, the dolphins protect the harbor from weapons tethered to the ocean floor or buried beneath the sediment. Their innate sonar helps them detect these objects. They’ve been trained to return to their handler with a warning signal when they find one. Even more impressive is the fact that the trainer then gives the dolphin a tool (a buoy) to mark the spot where the weapon was found. That way, passing ships can avoid it, and Navy divers can dismantle it.
And when the threat is a human diver who means harm to the base, dolphins are trained to use their mouths to attach the buoy to them, which pulls them to the surface for capture.
Washington state’s nuclear dolphin protection
According to Military.com (cited below), “Since Bangor, Washington, now houses the largest single nuclear weapons site in the world, it needs protection from all sides, including the seaward side. That’s where the Navy’s dolphin pods and sea lions come in. Navy spokesman Chris Haley says the animals have been defending the waters around the stockpile, holding roughly 25% of the United States’ 9,962 nuclear warheads, since 2010.“
The former Soviet Union is believed to have trained dolphins for military purposes as well. The program is suspected to be ongoing in some sense. However, it’s also thought that much of it was sold to Iran during the fall Soviet regime. — WTF fun facts