Some dolphins used by the Navy to track down mines will soon lose their jobs to robots — but they’ll be reassigned, not retired.
Starting in 2017, 24 of the Navy’s 80 military-trained dolphins will be replaced by a 12-foot unmanned torpedo-shaped vehicle, according to UT San Diego (http://bit.ly/VbJkA0).
The military said the machines can do some of the same mine-hunting duties as the sea creatures. And they can be manufactured quickly, unlike the seven years it takes to train a dolphin.
But the dolphins won’t be relieved of duty. They’ll be used along with sea lions for port security and retrieving objects from the sea floor, the newspaper reported.
The Navy’s $28 million marine-mammal program dates back to the late 1950s and once included killer whales and sharks. Based in San Diego, it currently uses 80 bottle-nosed dolphins and 40 California sea lions.
In recent years, dolphins have been deployed to Iraq and Bahrain to patrol for enemy divers and mark the locations of mines.