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Navy Dolphins to Be Replaced by Robots in 5 Years, Human Jobs Probably Safe A Little Longer

Looks like the robots’ insidious plot to displace all of mankind from their jobs even extends to our friends in the animal kingdom. The Navy is planning to reduce its reliance on mine-detecting dolphins — and seals — in favor of more sophisticated unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs). While the Navy isn’t planning to begin this initiative until 2017 at the earliest, this certainly doesn’t bode well for dolphins who have mouths to feed in this tenuous economy. So long and thanks for all the pink slips.

Since the late 1960s, the Navy has been running their military dolphin program from the Point Loma training facility in San Diego, California, making dolphin detection an instrumental tool in a number of wars. The underwater warriors have served a variety of purposes, such as locating and notifying Navy personnel of nearby mines and enemy swimmers attempting to covertly attack warships.

With mine detection hardware growing more sophisticated with each passing day, though, the use of dolphins is becoming antiquated. The practice has also come under fire from the Humane Society, which argues that the use of marine mammals in mine detection endangers their welfare — a point it is a little bit hard to argue against, since, you know, mines are known to explode. It’s kind of their thing. However, the society has recently come to some level of understanding in regards to using dolphins for wartime applications.

Even though the Navy is still planning to move forward with new tactics and tools, Space and Warfare Systems Command Pacific (SPAWAR) spokesman James Fallin believes that technology still has plenty of catching up to do with the sonar abilities of marine mammals.

Because of the unique capabilities of the marine mammals in the shallow water environment, there are several critical misions [sic] that they perform that cannot be matched by technology or hardware in the near-term. While the Navy is working on developing replacement technologies, there is no definitive pathway charged for a full replacement of the operational use of marine marine mammals.

Until then, it looks like dolphins will still have some job security. We wonder why the Navy is putting so much faith in robots, though. We remain under the impression that hey’d sooner guide humans into an underwater mine than away from it.

(North County Times via Discovery News, photo via Scott the Hobo)

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