Russia’s Newest Naval Fleet in the Arctic Now Includes… Weaponized Whales?

In 400 B.C., Greek general Themistocles was quoted in The History of the Peloponnesian War. He said, “He who controls the sea controls everything.”

Many centuries later, U.S. naval strategist and author Alfred Mahan wrote this in The Influence of Sea Power Upon History. “Whoever rules the waves rules the world.”

Both men believed countries could succeed in wars if they possessed superior high seas power. Much in the world has changed since those statements were made.

But much the same could be said today. Especially with nuclear-armed submarines being one of the world’s most powerful and stealth weapons.

Something’s Fishy in Norway

Today, the world’s powers are always on the lookout. They’re observing their enemies’ battleships and submarines.

But are they watching for fish? They might have to start doing that very thing.

Recently, scientists and fishermen from Norway said they’ve seen an unusual white whale surfacing near their boats.

It swam alongside them and repeatedly nudged them. They thought this might be good-natured fun or a mammal trying to be fed. But something was different about this whale.

A Whale Wearing a Harness

What’s different? It was wearing a harness. Norwegian scientists believe it was trained by the Russian military. To harass boats in the Arctic and perhaps gather information.

The fisherman removed the harness. It contained a logo reading: “Equipment of St. Petersburg.” Russian scientists deny any knowledge of the harnessed whale.

In the past, Russia has acknowledged training sea mammals for special operations in the Artic. Russia has a major military base not far from Norway.

Martin Biuw is with the Institute of Marine Research in Norway. He said, “If this whale comes from Russia – and there is great reason to believe it – then it is not Russian scientists but rather the navy that has done this.”

Cold War-Era Tactic

There is a history to this type of activity. The Soviet Union trained dolphins, seals and other animals to help them find underwater weapons. That was during the Cold War era.

These animals would alert their military trainers when they found something. Was this program ever officially shut down? Nobody seems to know. But probably not.

As recently as 2017, a television network owned by Moscow’s defense ministry aired a telling report.

It was about a navy program that involved training seals, dolphins and beluga whales for similar activities.

Trained to Attack

The Russian TV report stated that the program involved determining whether beluga whales could “guard naval bases in the Arctic.”

And whether they could “assist deep water divers.” And, if necessary, “kill any strangers who enter their territory.”

Recently a group of Russian scientists got an award. It was for their efforts on “the use of marine animals for official purposes.”

The award was presented by the Russian Academy of Sciences. An Academy member said this activity might become relevant due to the increase in “the terrorist threat.”

The Russians using sea mammals for military purposes could be alarming for the entire world.

Right now, Norway is feeling the heat more than others. Norway shares a 120-mile border with Russia.

A recent 60 Minutes report showed that Russia has been conducting simulated attacks near Norwegian territory. With nuclear-capable warplanes, no less.

Norwegian Lieutenant General Rune Jakobsen said this is “not something you should do to your neighbor.”

NATO Responds With War Games

Russia’s greatest single concentration of military power is based on the Kola Peninsula.

It includes a fleet of ships and planes, naval bases, airfields and nuclear weapons storage sites.

In response to Russian provocation, NATO held its largest war games to date in Norway.

The Norway navy’s newest surveillance vessel is equipped with U.S. technology to detect submarines.

Dolphins Licensed to Kill?

On the one hand, it seems unlikely the Russians are training sea mammals to become weapons.

When asked about the whale wearing a harness, a Russian colonel reportedly said this. “If we were using this animal for spying, do you really think we’d attach a mobile phone number with the message, ‘Please call this number?’”

On the other hand, a former adviser to Russia on dolphin care said the Russians were training dolphins. Especially to attach mines to enemy ships.

And to prod enemies with a needle attached to a pressurized carbon dioxide tank. Which would kill whoever the dolphins touched.

Whales Are Cheap Labor

It makes sense to use sea mammals for military purposes. Unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs) are expensive and need to be recharged.

Bryan Clark is a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. He says beluga whales “could operate nearly indefinitely.”

He added this. “You could take a sensor you might put on a UUV, like a sonar system, and the whale could swim out for days at a time.”

When the whale resurfaces, trainers could pull the data it collects. Then give it a new sensor and send it on a new mission.

It will be interesting to see what comes out of this whale story and others like it. Next time you see one from your boat, you might want to lower your voice. And raise your defenses.

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