Huffington Post.

The US Navy is reportedly planning to replace its last military dolphins
with robots.

In an exclusive interview with BBC
the navy said it would replace its highly trained pod of sea mammals with
cheaper electronic alternatives.

The Navy has used dolphins in missions to help locate and even destroy
mines at sea for more than 50 years.

The program was started in 1960, and also used sea lions, sharks and 16
other species. Bottlenose dolphins were chosen because of their sonar, high
intelligence and underwater vision.

Now the practice will be phased out from 2017, because a new line of
robotic mine hunters is cheaper and more effective, said Captain Frank
Linkous, head of the US Navy’s Mine Warfare Branch.

The new generation of 7-metre-long underwater vehicles were first unveiled
in April, and will be slowly phased in when they are ready.

BBC Future has the full story at its website (not accessible in the

The Navy has always said that it treats its military animals with utmost
care, and likens their use to that of security patrol dogs, whose sense of
smell is superior to humans and many machines.

It has been criticised in the past, particularly. by animal rights groups,
but says it is subject to the same laws and regulations as any organisation.

The service says on its
“Just as the dog’s keen sense of smell makes it ideal for detecting land
mines, the U.S. Navy has found that the biological sonar of dolphins,
called echolocation, makes them uniquely effective at locating sea mines so
they can be avoided or removed.”

It adds that rumours about the Navy deploying animals as offensive weapons
are completely false.

“The Navy does not now train, nor has it ever trained, its marine mammals
to harm or injure humans in any fashion or to carry weapons to destroy

A popular movie in 1973 (“The Day of the Dolphin”) and a number of charges
and claims by animal rights organizations have resulted in theories and
sometimes actual beliefs that Navy dolphins are assigned attack missions.
This is absolutely false.

Since dolphins cannot discern the difference between enemy and friendly
vessels, or enemy and friendly divers and swimmers, it would not be wise to
give that kind of decision authority to an animal.”

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