U.S. deploys dolphins to protect Fifth Fleet in Persian Gulf

Tuesday, September 9, 2003

ABU DHABI — The U.S. Navy has decided to replace anti-mine systems with trained dolphins to detect and neutralize threats in the Persian Gulf.

The dolphins are said to be capable of detecting explosives and enemy frogmen. The commanders said the dolphin's natural sonar system is more effective than man-made technology.

Naval commanders said the dolphins are meant to protect the U.S. naval presence in Bahrain, headquarters of the Fifth Fleet, as well as other areas of the Gulf.

The Fifth Fleet has brought dolphins to replace sea lions, who were used to detect threats in shallow water, Middle East Newsline reported. The sea lions came from California and were trained to work in a range of environments.

The sea mammals have been termed Mk-6 anti-swimmer dolphin system. Commanders said they can be deployed anywhere at a moment's notice.

"It is reassuring to know that we can put our anti-swimmer dolphins where we need them rapidly and successfully, in order to protect our sailors, ships and high value assets," Lt. Cmdr. Martin Anderson, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command’s Special Operations branch officer, said. "These dolphins and their handlers provide a valuable capability, by guarding U.S. and coalition ships and piers in the waters of not only the Arabian Gulf, but throughout 5th Fleet waters."

"Hardware-based systems have limitations that the dolphins make up for naturally, which helps them discriminate between objects and swimmers," Dan Cook, a sonar technician at the Fifth Fleet's Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 3, said. "This is particularly helpful in high noise environments, such as harbors and bays."

The commanders said the dolphins were effective in stopping Iraqi attacks on U.S. Navy ships and facilities during the Gulf war. They said the dolphins as well as sea lions can be easily deployed in other areas of the Gulf.

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