Bottlenose dolphins being deployed for minesweeping training during the RIMPAC naval exercise. Photo courtesy of SPAWAR Systems Center pacific/U.S. Navy
July 30 (UPI) -- Bottlenose dolphins in the U.S. Navy's Marine Mammal Systems Program recently participated in mine clearance training during the Rim of the Pacific exercise.
The dolphins, known as Mark 7 Marine Mammal Systems, are part of the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal program based out of Naval Base Loma, Calif. Technicians directed the dolphins to detect and mark simulated mines as part of RIMPAC SOCAL, according to the Navy.
The dolphins were transported in padded mats by small boat and were slid into the water. When deployed near a mine, they would typically discover it within 30 seconds, Navy officials said.
After signaling to their handler that they found a mine, and then being sent back down to confirm, they are given a marker to place near the mine. After divers confirm the dolphin's discovery and placement of the marker, the bottlenose is given fish as a reward.
Dolphins are just one of many components of mine clearing operations. They have a special ability to locate mines buried in the sea floor, making them valuable despite various advanced sonars and other minesweeping gear.
RIMPAC runs Jun. 27-Aug. 2 around Hawaii and southern California. RIMPAC is the largest international training exercise in the world. Twenty-five partner nations, 46 ships, five submarines, 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating.
RIMPAC 2018 is the 26th to be held. The first RIMPAC was in 1971.