Underwater Army

The dolphin’s highly evolved biosonar makes it the perfect ally to help detect and recover underwater mines.

’s not just land animals who have been called up for duty. Up until the early nineties the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program was a complete secret. Dating back to the 1960s, the program has trained both dolphins and sea lions for military uses, eventually focussing their training specifically on the bottlenose dolphin and Californian sea lion. The dolphin’s highly evolved biosonar makes it the perfect ally to help detect and recover underwater mines. The sea lion’s incredible underwater vision and agility makes it the ideal marine sentry, helping to spot approaching enemy swimmers.

Both animals can even be trained to attach a device onto an enemy swimmer which will then deploy a buoy, alerting crew nearby to the intruders’ presence. Sea lions can go one step further and even attach a clamp to the swimmer’s leg, effectively restraining the enemy from going any further, before deploying the floating buoy. These animals’ ability to dive to great depths also enables them to help with tagging and recovering objects from the seabed. Dolphins helped protect U.S. ships during the Vietnam War and were even deployed to Bahrain in 1987 and 1988 to patrol the USS La Salle (the 3rd Fleet flagship) as it sat in the harbour. In more recent times sea lions were sent to the Persian Gulf to help protect U.S. and British warships during the Iraq War of 2003.

Did you know?

At Boston University, scientists have begun investigations into creating remotely controlled sharks that could one day become ocean spies. Placing thin electrodes into the brains of a dogfish (member of the shark family), scientists can control its movement by stimulating the sharks sense of smell via an electrical current. Mimicking these smells electronically allows the scientists to manually direct the shark. This may mean that one day sharks could be deployed as underwater spies or be sent into hostile waters in advance of troops to look for any deadly devices.