Satellite photos show militarized dolphin pens at a major Russian naval base in Sevastopol


  • Militarized dolphin pens were seen in satellite photos of a Russian naval base.
  • Animals in military marine mammal programs are trained to detect enemy swimmers and sea mines.
  • The dolphins could foil Ukrainian special operations attempting to sabotage Russian warships.

Satellite images captured by Maxar Technologies show two pens containing trained dolphins belonging to the Russian Navy at the harbor of Sevastopol, Crimea, a major port on the Black Sea.

Russia has deployed the militarized dolphins to protect its Black Sea naval base by foiling Ukrainian undersea operations aimed at sabotaging Russian warships, USNI News, a news and analysis site by the US Naval Institute, reported.

According to the report, the pens were moved to the naval base in February following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian navy has operated a trained marine mammal program in Sevastopol since the Cold War, with the units being transferred to the Ukrainian armed forces following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, USNI News reported. Russia regained the units following the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and expanded operations ever since, according to the report.

Animals in marine mammal programs — ranging from dolphins and beluga whales to sea lions and seals — are trained to find enemy combat swimmers and detect bottom mines and moored mines, according to H I Sutton, an expert on submarine and sub-surface systems who first reported on the dolphin pens in Sevastopol.

Four countries are known to run such military programs, including the US, Russia, Israel, and North Korea, according to Sutton.