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U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program Performs Mine Clearance Operations During RIMPAC SOCAL 2018

30 July 2018

From Lt. Andrew Thompson

MMS in the U.S. Navy's MMSP supported MCM training during the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise in the Southern California (SOCAL) area of operations.
Mark 7 Marine Mammal System (MMS) bottlenose dolphins in the U.S. Navy's Marine Mammal Systems Program (MMSP) supported dynamic mine countermeasure (MCM) training during the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise in the Southern California (SOCAL) area of operations.

The bottlenose dolphins are part of the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program (MMP) based at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific on Naval Base Point Loma in Southern California. The training consisted of MMSP technicians directing the Mark 7 MMS to seek out and mark simulated mines.

During the exercise, Amanda Naderer and Dave Woods - MMP technicians who operate the Mark 7 Marine Mammal System (MMS) - conducted a mine hunting session with one of the dolphins. On its way to the training minefield, the dolphin traveled by boat protected by a padded, folding mat. Once the group arrived on station, Woods unfolded the mat and the dolphin slid into the water.

Within 30 seconds, the dolphin surfaced to report that it had detected a training mine. Woods then sent the dolphin back underwater to verify its discovery. In an instant, the dolphin reappeared to confirm its find, and Woods gave it a marking device. The dolphin used its snout to carry the device down to the object. After the dolphin placed the marker near - but not on - the training mine, a portion of the marker device floated to the surface to reveal its location. Immediately afterward, divers aboard a different boat swam to the sea floor underneath the marker float to evaluate the dolphin's work. The divers returned to the surface with a thumbs-up, signaling a correct identification and accurate marker placement. Woods immediately rewarded the dolphin with verbal praise and fish.

Mark 7 MMS bottlenose dolphins provide one of a multitude of mine countermeasures (MCM) capabilities that can locate submerged mines in challenging maritime environments. The Mark 7 however, has the unique ability to locate mines buried beneath the sea floor. This valuable capability is a valuable addition to the U.S. Navy's MCM community. RIMPAC provided an opportunity to integrate the Mark 7 MMS bottlenose dolphins into Combined Task Force (CTF) 177. The CTF 177 commander is the exercise's Mine Warfare Commander (MIWC). CTF 177 is comprised of 26 units with approximately 1,100 personnel representing the United States, Australia, Canada, England, Japan, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

Twenty-five nations, 46 ships, five submarines, 200 aircraft, and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 27 to Aug. 2 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity while fostering and sustaining cooperative relationships among participants critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security of the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2018 is the 26th exercise in the series that began in 1971.

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