The Navy Proves That Dolphins Are The Most Bad-Ass Creatures In The Water

Cooler than sharks.

It makes sense that the U.S. Navy would employ land mammals such as dolphins, along with other marine life, to help keep America safe. But just what does the Navy do with them? In a recent Quora thread, one user claimed that the "U.S. Navy has 75 trained dolphins to detect enemy swimmers and underwater mines." We decided to take a look at the Navy's use of dolphins. 

Discussing the use of land mammals, such as dogs, in locating land mines, the Navy says its Marine Mammal Program "has found that the biological sonar of dolphins, called echolocation, makes them uniquely effective at locating sea mines so they can be avoided or removed. ...marine mammals are so important to the Navy that there is an entire program dedicated to studying, training, and deploying them. It is appropriately called the Navy Marine Mammal Program (NMMP)."


This photograph on the Navy's website says that "Mark Six swimmer defense dolphins are deployed to the Arabian Gulf to provide operational force protection capabilities for Navy ships, piers and other high-value assets as part of the global war on terrorism. The dolphins are trained to detect, locate and mark threat swimmers and divers attempting to commit terrorist attacks."

The dolphins have been used since the Vietnam war.

The Mark 6 dolphins are trained as "anti-swimmer."

This is no secret. The Navy's webpage that discusses the various ways in which dolphins are employed states this plainly: 

"Much more than your typical Sea World entertainers, these dolphins are dedicated Navy Sailors, standing watch over Arabian Gulf ports and deterring uninvited guests seeking to harm ships and ports. With swimmer defense experience dating back to Vietnam, the Navy's Mk 6 dolphins are ready to deploy any time, anywhere."

So are the dolphins ever trained to kill?

In a FAQ page, the Navy responds to whether or not Dolphins are trained for offensive warfare, saying

"The Navy does not now train, nor has it ever trained, its marine mammals to harm or injure humans in any fashion or to carry weapons to destroy ships."

Still, rumors of armed dolphins circulate.

Former Navy SEAL Brandon Webb, best-selling author of NY Times best-seller The Red Circle and editor-in-chief of wrote an article in 2012 that indicates that MK6 dolphins may be being trained for offensive warfare:

"There were always rumors in the UDT/SEAL Teams about the CO2 anti-swimmer cartridges used by the dolphins. The concept is a simple one: dolphin hits an enemy diver with a CO2 dart that injects him with compressed nitrogen, diver has an embolism, and diver is dead. It's a very efficient and extremely hard to defend against.

I recently phoned two of my former colleagues who are still on active duty and asked them if they could confirm the rumor, and neither could. So I asked myself the question, did the US Navy EVER consider CO2 darts with regards to harbor anti-swimmer defense? I was shocked to find open source evidence that appears to admit that yes, they did."

Webb is referring to the slide pictured above which specifically mentions a "CO2 dart," albeit in the context of swimmer protection and accompanying a picture of two sharks. The slide comes from a publically accessible slideshow discussing the Navy's use of marine mammals.

Webb also quotes an anonymous Navy SEAL who attests to the existence of a '90s era weaponized dolphin program:

"We would do several dives a day and try everything to avoid detection, hiding under boats next to the keel, stirring up silt from the bottom, and hiding among pier pilings. Nothing worked to our advantage, the longest time it took one of the dolphins to find and simulate a kill on 7 pairs of divers was within minutes.

The dolphins would have their simulated CO2 system attached to their nose, they would then ram us in the chest cavity to simulate the injection. The dolphins could kill just with this force alone but the idea was to recover the bodies and any intelligence.

I actually saw one of the heavy gauge needles that attaches to their nose along with the harness and CO2 containers that were positioned just behind the head. They're incredibly smart mammals and not pleasant to dive against."

But one active-duty Navy SEAL told us otherwise.

One current active-duty Navy SEAL (who will remain anonymous) we reached out to has a different take in a story he told us about his dive buddy who was run into by one of the dolphins:

"My dive buddy that got hit by the dolphins, ironically, was an EOD operator that worked with those dolphins prior to BUD/s. He never said anything about the dolphins being trained to harm anyone."

"I don't want those dolphins getting a bad rep," he added. 

As it stands, there doesn't seem to be any evidence that the dolphins are trained to harm people.

Yet another Navy SEAL has a humorous spin on these dolphins.

In his memoir Damn Few, former Navy SEAL Rorke Denver has this to say about Navy dolphins:

"With their intelligence and size, (dolphins) have a special knack for running interference against a hostile swimmer. But every once in a while, a SEAL swim pair is physically assaulted by one of these dolphins. The closest thing I can compare it to is being sniffed by a frisky neighborhood dog - if the dog weighed six hundred pounds and was dead set on getting cozy."

"No SEAL has ever been nuzzled to death by a runaway bottlenose, and we've never had to use deadly force to defend a teammate from one. But there is nothing fun about one of the most athletic and headstrong animals in the water making an aggressive pass at you. It's funny, but only if it's happening to someone else."

One thing is for certain: marine life continues to play a vital part in the defense of our nation. 

Please check out SOFREP's site and Facebook as well as Damn Few by Rorke Denver.

**In a previous version of this, we did not have the quote and information from our anonymous Navy source. The article has been updated accordingly, with our gratitude to him.

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