The Navy's Other Seals ... And Dolphins
GUY RAZ, host:
President John F. Kennedy talked about the missile gap during the Cold War, that the Russians had more nuclear weapons than the U.S. Well, this week, we learned of another gap between our two countries - a sea lion gap.
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RAZ: Russian scientist Gennady Matishov, the director of the Murmansk Marine Biology Institute in northern Russia, told the Izvestia newspaper that Russia is behind - way behind - the United States when it comes to militarized sea mammals.
Mr. NOAH SHACHTMAN (Editor, Wired Magazine): It is true that the U.S. military does employ teams of both dolphins and sea lions.
RAZ: That's Noah Shachtman. He's an editor for Wired magazine and runs its military technology blog, Danger Room.
Mr. SHACHTMAN: They take on two roles pretty much. One is to look for underwater mines, and the other is that marine mammals are used to patrol certain U.S. bases to watch out for the very unlikely event of a terrorist swimmer attack against them.
RAZ: They're trained at the Navy's Marine Mammal Program in San Diego, where the dolphins learn how to use strobe lights to mark intruders.
Mr. SHACHTMAN: A dolphin would drop the strobe light, and that would signal the humans to come and respond to the infiltration. The sea lions are a little better equipped. They actually can have a little cuff they carry around, and can actually cuff the potential waterborne intruder.
RAZ: That's right, the sea lions are trained to put leg cuffs on intruders. The U.S. military's already deployed these underwater sentries at a Naval base in Georgia, and plans to use them next year at a submarine base in Washington State. But military officials say sea lions and dolphins aren't yet authorized to use lethal force, so they won't be packing heat anytime soon.
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