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Marine Mammal Systems (MMS)

From the capabilities demonstrated in the Advanced Marine Biological Systems program, four operational Fleet Marine Mammal Systems (MMS) have been developed to fulfill Navy requirements where hardware is inadequate or safety is an issue. Dolphins are used in MMS because of their exceptional biological sonar that is unmatched by hardware sonars in detecting objects in the water column and on the ocean bottom. Sea lions are used because of their very sensitive underwater directional hearing and low light level vision. Both of these marine mammal species are trainable for tasks and are capable of repetitive deep diving. Fleet MMS are assigned to Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Units (EODMU).

"System" is the term used for the various marine mammal programs developed for use by the Fleet. Each system has from 4 to 8 marine mammals, an Officer-in-Charge, and several enlisted personnel. All MMS are rapidly transported by aircraft, helicopter and land vehicles with all equipment to sustain an operational deployment. These systems regularly participate in major Fleet exercises. The Mk 6 & 7 MMS were used to support waterside security at the 1996 Republican Convention in San Diego, CA. SPAWAR supports these Fleet systems with replenishment marine mammals, hardware, training, personnel and documentation.

  • Mk 4 is a dolphin mine searching system that detects and marks locations of mines moored off the ocean bottom. It is capable of shipboard forward deployment to support post-amphibious operations. (EODMU THREE, Coronado, CA)
  • Mk 5 is a sea lion exercise mine recovery system that locates pingered training mines. The sea lions can locate these mines to depths of 1000 feet and attach a grabber device for recovery. (EODMU THREE, Coronado, CA and EODMU SIX, Charleston, SC)
  • Mk 6 is a dolphin swimmer and diver detection system that can detect and mark the location of an intruder. This system was used in Vietnam in 1970-71 and the Persian Gulf in 1987-88. (EODMU THREE, Coronado, CA)
  • Mk 7 is a dolphin mine searching system that detects and marks the location of mines on the ocean bottom. This system is also capable of shipboard forward deployment to support post-amphibious assaults. (EODMU THREE, Coronado, CA)

The U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program began in 1959 at Marineland of the Pacific with a Navy scientist and a Pacific white-sided dolphin named Notty. The Navy was interested in the hydrodynamics of the dolphin. By understanding how dolphins move in the water, perhaps they could improve torpedo, ship, and submarine designs. Soon the Navy realized that there were lots of other good reasons to study dolphins. Like the Navy, dolphins use sonar. Dolphins are also capable of making repeated deep dives without experiencing "the bends" or decompression sickness as do human divers. This capability would make dolphins valuable assistants to Navy divers working in the open ocean.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 12:57:35 ZULU