The Ukrainian Navy's newest weapon is not a man or a machine. It's a dolphin.
According to recent reports from Russia's state-owned news agency Ria Novosti, the Ukrainians are training dolphins to attack enemy combatants by attaching knives and pistols to their heads.
"We are now planning training exercises for counter-combat swimmer tasks in order to defend ships in port and on raids," a source told Ria Novosti.
While the idea of training dolphins for combat purposes is relatively new, the U.S. Navy has employed dolphins for decades in different capacities. Dolphins' use of echolocation has made them extremely helpful in locating underwater mines and explosives, and the U.S. Navy has used the animals for that purpose.
During the Vietnam War, a group of dolphins was used to protect against enemy swimmers near the Army ammunition pier in Cam Ranh Bay.
The U.S. Navy still operates the Marine Mammal Program in San Diego. According to a 2011 ABC News story, there are about 100 animals in training in San Diego, with sea lions and dolphins being the only ones ready for combat.
"The dolphins have a very high-level biological sonar, so finding objects like mines, for example, they have no problem finding them," said Ed Budzyna, a spokesman for the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center. "They can be buried in the ocean floor or floating around or anywhere."
The use of dolphins hasn't been entirely without controversy, however, as some activists believe that animals should not be used in situations deemed too dangerous for humans.
"Dolphins are particularly intelligent and sensitive," Kathy Guillermo, the vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) told ABC News last year. "But dolphins don't make war and I don't think they should be used to fight our wars."
The U.S. Navy claims that its animals are never used in combat situations:
"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," reads the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program's website. "Since dolphins cannot discern the difference between enemy and friendly vessels, or enemy and friendly divers and swimmers, it would not be wise to give that kind of decision authority to an animal."
For more information on the U.S. Navy's use of dolphins and other marine animals, see here.
(H/T to Geekologie)