SAIC to care for Navy's electronic sensor-equipped mine-hunting dolphins

SAN DIEGO, 9 Dec. 2009. The U.S. Navy's force of bottlenose dolphins, which use electronic sensors as well as their own biological echolocation capability to detect submerged sea mines, will receive care and training from Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) in San Diego under terms of a $9.9 million contract awarded late last week.

Posted by John Keller

SAN DIEGO, 9 Dec. 2009. The U.S. Navy's force of bottlenose dolphins, which use electronic sensors as well as their own biological echolocation capability to detect submerged sea mines, will receive care and training from Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) in San Diego under terms of a $9.9 million contract awarded late last week.

SAIC will provide care, maintenance and operation of marine mammals that serve in the Navy's Marine Mammal Systems (MMS) and fleet mine countermeasures and force protection systems.

The Navy's Marine Mammal Systems consist of the MK 4, MK 7, and MK 8, in which domesticated and specially trained dolphins follow cues from their human handlers to search areas for mines and other submerged targets. The dolphins use their echolocation biological sonar as well as electronic undersea sensors like small acoustic tracking devices to locate mines.

Each dolphin reports back to its handler by giving one response if it detects a target, and another if it finds no targets. The dolphins mark the locations of detected mines to enable Navy ships to detect them or Navy divers to disable them. Enemy sea mines have been responsible for 14 of the 19 Navy ships destroyed or damaged since 1950, Navy officials say.

Navy leaders transport dolphins to areas of operation aboard special vessels, such as the dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall, and deploys the dolphins from special enclosures.

The MK 4 Marine Mammal System uses dolphins to find and mark sea mines that are tethered off the ocean bottom, where undersea clutter or rough sea beds make it difficult for the Navy's electronic sensors to operate.

The MK 7 MMS uses dolphins to find and mark mines sitting on the ocean bottom or buried in sediment. The MK 8 MMS, meanwhile, describes a human/dolphin team that helps mark save areas for troops landing ashore.

Awarding the SAIC contract to care for Marine Mammal System dolphins is the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) in San Diego. For more information contact SPAWAR online at www.spawar.navy.mil.

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