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.
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.
- 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,
- 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,
- 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)
Sources and Resources
Maintained by Robert Sherman
Originally created by John Pike
Updated Saturday, December 12, 1998 7:17:49 AM