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Navy dolphins being replaced by robots

Well, at least their jobs aren’t being outsourced to somewhere in Asia. ;-)

Starting in 2017, 24 of the Navy’s 80 military-trained dolphins will be replaced by 12-foot unmanned torpedo-shaped vehicles, according to UT San Diego.

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.

Most of the Navy’s dolphins and sea lions are housed at Point Loma Naval Base, in pools sectioned off from the bay. Others guard Navy submarine bases in Georgia and Washington state, according to UT San Diego.

My photo of the NEW Point Loma Lighthouse is above, I took it during the wedding-at-sea of my nephew and his wife, who were both in the Navy at the time.

The dolphins that the Navy uses to locate mines and that will be replaced with the robots will be reassigned, not retired. The dolphins and sea lions will be used for port security and for retrieving objects from the ocean floor. According to the military, the robots can do some of the same mine-detection activities performed by the dophins and sea lions. The BIG difference…? It takes SEVEN YEARS to train a dolphin for the tasks, but the robots can be manufactured quickly!

Recently, dolphins “…have been deployed to Iraq and Bahrain to patrol for enemy divers and mark the locations of mines.” The dolphins use their sonar to “…find and mark mines in shallow water, in deep water when tethers are used, and on the bottom where sediment cover and plant growth can hide the devices.” Dolphins are carried in movable pools that are about 20 feet in diameter, when they are carried on board Navy ships. Dophins were on the amphibious vessel, Gunston Hall, for the Iraq War in 2003.

The military is responsible for the care of the animals, even after they are retired from active duty. Occasionally,  Navy dolphins are loaned to animal parks, like Sea World, later in their lives.

-Bill at

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