No, The U.S. Navy Isn't Sending 'Combat Dolphins' To Ukraine

A Navy spokesperson told multiple outlets the U.S. has no plans to send "combat dolphins" to the Black Sea.
Posted at 2:42 PM, Apr 22, 2014

The U.S. has repeatedly said it won't get involved militarily in Ukraine, but by some reports, it's sending in these guys instead. Yes — dolphins. (Via U.S. Department of Defense, SeaWorld)

The story appeared in Russian paper Izvestia, which reported the U.S. Navy will deploy 20 combat dolphins and 10 sea lions into the Black Sea. 

It didn't take long for a handful of Russian and American outlets to run with the story. (Via The Wire, RIA Novosti, RT)

British paper Daily Mirror reported, "The specially-trained dolphins attack enemy divers, hunt for mines and even plant bombs."

Yes ... plant bombs. But the actual spokesperson for the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program told NBC the report is dead wrong, saying, "There's no basis to the story." 

He told Foreign Policy the Navy official quoted in the original Russian report has been retired for nearly a decade.

Now, despite the supposed misreporting, the story isn't completely out of left field. 

The U.S. Navy does in fact train dolphins to use their sonar capabilities to detect underwater mines and intruders. It has since the 1960s. (Via YouTube / Oasis HD, U.S. Navy)

Same goes for Russia. In a dolphin arms race of sorts, the Soviets maintained a marine-mammal program of their own until the USSR fell apart. When Ukraine gained its independence, it got to keep its bottle-nosed comrades. (Via History Channel

Then reports of dolphins defecting emerged last month. Russian state media reported Russia was annexing not only Crimea, but the region's military dolphin program along with it. (Via Vice

It's not entirely clear what the Russian navy plans to do with its newly acquired dolphin fleet, but for now, it's probably safe to say there's no reason to expect a dolphin vs. dolphin proxy war in the Black Sea anytime soon.