The US Military Relies on Dolphins to Detect Mines

By Jamie Condliffe on at

The US Military invests billions of pounds in technology. But to keep the Strait of Hormuz, close to Iran, open, it's using an unusual, but no less innovative, technique: mine-detecting dolphins.

American officials worry that Iran might block the Strait of Hormuz using mines, armed speedboats or anti-ship cruise missiles, reports The Atlantic Wire. If that happened, it would force the US to retaliate, and things would get nasty. So instead the US Military is trying desperately to keep the strait open-as-usual.

That means keeping the water free from mines. So what do they use to do that?

"We've got dolphins," said retired Admiral Tim Keating in an interview with NPR. Dolphins! Mine-detecting dolphins.

It's not the first time that these smart-arse mammals have been connected with mine hunting. In 2010, the Seattle Times reported that the US Navy has 80 bottlenose dolphins in the San Diego Bay alone, and a 2003 report detailed how dolphins are only used to detect mines, but never set them off.

So what do they actually do? Apparently they're taught to hunt for mines and drop acoustic transponders nearby. Then, the US Navy uses the information to identify mines and send out human divers to detonate them.

Unsurprisingly, this kind of thing causes a bit of stir amongst animal rights campaigners: after all, a dolphin's big enough to set off a mine if it touches one accidentally. There are no numbers available on dolphin battlefield fatalities though. [The Atlantic Wire]

Image credit: pochacco20/flickr