Posted by Fullcouch on January 13, 2012, 2:40pm
Atlantic Wire – If Iran closes the Strait of Hormuz, the U.S. Navy has a backup plan to save one-fifth of the world’s daily oil trade: send in the dolphins.
The threat of Iran closing the strait has reached a fever pitch, reports today’s New York Times, with U.S. officials warning Iran’s supreme leader that such moves would cross a “red line” provoking a U.S. response. Iran could block the strait with any assortment of mines, armed speed boats or anti-ship cruise missiles but according to Michael Connell at the Center for Naval Analysis, “The immediate issue [for the U.S. military] is to get the mines.” To solve that problem, the Navy has a solution that isn’t heavily-advertised but has a time-tested success rate: mine-detecting dolphins.
The invasion of Iraq was the last time the minesweeping capability of dolphins were widely-touted. “Dolphins – – which possess sonar so keen they can discern a quarter from a dime when blindfolded and spot a 3-inch metal sphere from 370 feet away — are invaluable minesweepers,” reported The San Francisco Chronicle. In 2010, the Seattle Times reported that the Navy has 80 bottlenose dolphins in the San Diego Bay alone. They are taught to hunt for mines and drop acoustic transponders nearby. According to a report in 2003, the dolphins only detect the mines. Destroying them is left up to the Navy’s human divers. Still, the mammals are large enough to detonate a live mine, a prospect that doesn’t delight animal rights groups.