Battleship Texas to Become Test Site for Robot Tuna

You fight in multiple wars, finally get retirement and all you have to show for it is rust and a robot fish. Such is life for the weary Battleship Texas, one of the few battleships left in the world that fought in both World Wars. The ship sits as a museum near the San Jacinto Monument and despite continuing to entertain tourists, it is in bad need of repair thanks to a series of massive leaks detected this spring. According to a Chron story in May, they still don't have nearly the funding they need to complete repairs.

But that doesn't mean the USS Texas is incapable of still serving its country. So, will it be called back to duty? Will it serve as a site for Navy training exercises? Maybe it will get some new tech and provide critical protection to the Port of Houston. Or it will be used to test a six-foot robotic fish built to detect contraband (read "drugs") hidden on the hulls of ships. Sigh.

When I first read about this "fish," I immediately began thinking of the massive robotic great white used in the movie Jaws. It was so temperamental, sinking to the bottom of the waters off Martha's Vineyard, director Steven Spielberg was forced to merely suggest the shark's presence making it much more terrifying. If freaking Steven Spielberg can't get it to work, how in the hell is the federal government going to do it?'

Then I realized that fish was probably just a term for this thing, or maybe an acronym like Fine Invasive Saltwater Harbinger. But, no, apparently the damn thing looks like an actual fish.

According to a release, the device known as a "BIOSwimmer" is a "highly maneuverable, unmanned underwater vehicle that is equipped with a sophisticated suite of sensors and embodies the natural shape of a tuna." Tuna? TUNA!? How is that going to intimidate anyone? How about a shark with a laser beam or, at the very least, an ill-tempered sea bass...with a laser beam? But, I guess they meant for this thing to be stealthy, not an attacking beast with rows of teeth and a hunger for human flesh even if that would be totally bad ass.

The testing they are doing with the USS Texas includes placing "mock contraband" in difficult-to-reach spaces on the battleship to see if the robot shark sea bass tuna can find them. It's essentially a very high tech game of hide and seek using a rusty, wounded battleship and a robot shaped like sushi. The indignity.

If the government really wanted to test it, they'd make a baby tuna and have it caught by fishermen right in front of the original BIOSwimmer. Then, turn the mama loose to see if it will seek revenge on random divers or do its job and find bricks of fake cocaine on the bottom of the USS Texas. If I know my shark movies, that robot goes rogue and starts terrorizing the waters of the ship channel. Now, THAT will get you funding to repair the USS Texas.

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