MANAMA: The US Central Command chief said Saturday that a task force led by the US will deploy over 100 unmanned vessels in the Gulf region’s strategic waters by next year to combat maritime threats.
General Michael Kurilla made the announcement at the annual Manama Dialogue conference in Bahrain, after Israel and the US blamed Iran for a drone strike off the coast of Oman this week that hit an Israeli-owned tanker.
The attack, which occurred at a time of increased tensions between Tehran and Washington, was the latest in a series of disruptions in Gulf waters, which are a vital route for global energy supplies.
“By this time next year, Task Force 59 will have brought together a fleet of over 100 unmanned surface and subsurface vessels that will be operating together, communicating together, and providing maritime domain awareness,” said the CENTCOM commander.
Task Force 59 was established in Bahrain, home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, in September 2021 to integrate unmanned systems and artificial intelligence into Middle East operations following a series of drone attacks blamed on Iran.
While airborne and subsea unmanned vessels are well developed, the Fifth Fleet believes that unmanned surface boats are a new technology that will be critical for future security.
In addition to the unmanned vessels, the US is “building an experimentation program here in the Middle East with our partners to beat adversary drones,” Kurilla said, without going into further detail.
The development of “adversary drones,” according to the CENTCOM chief, is the greatest technological threat to regional security.