For the last 30 years, the US Navy has been involved in highly secret research programmes to study dolphins and to train them to detect enemy mines, attach tracking beacons and explosives to enemy ships and submarines, find and locate lost ordnance and to guard military bases. There are persistent rumors that they have also been trained to kill frogmen.

Details of these activities, highly classified on the grounds of 'national security', have come to light only because a number of people who were formerly involved with the programme have become disturbed by its aims and applications and have revealed some of what they know.

Information on the Soviet programme, begun in 1965, is even harder to find and the only source of such knowledge to date is from the CIA.

From 1960 to 1989, the US Navy is known to have trained and worked with 240 dolphins, of which 115 are currently enlisted in the programme along with some belugas and sea lions. A staff of 150 naval personnel and civilian trainers now manage the programme from clandestine bases in California, Florida and Hawaii. Leading civilian scientists from around the US, funded by the Navy, carry out additional research programmes into various aspects of dolphins behaviour and abilities.

Submarine-based missiles and naval warheads remain the front line of the superpowers' nuclear arsenal. The incredible speed, maneuverability, sensitivity and sonar capabilities of dolphins are the very attributes that naval forces seek to emulate. Hidden from public view, these undersea research and development programmes are now established as an important component in naval strategic thinking.

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