Sea Hunter medium displacement unmanned surface vessel. (Photo credit: US Navy).
A US task force will deploy more than 100 unmanned vessels by 2023 to “help ensure maritime security” in the Gulf region’s strategic waters, US Forces Central Command (CENTCOM) chief Michael Erik Kurilla announced on 19 November in Bahrain, according to Mehr News Agency.
“By this time next year, Task Force 59 will bring together a fleet of over 100 unmanned surface and subsurface vessels operating together, communicating together, and providing maritime domain awareness,” Kurilla announced during the annual Manama dialogue conference.
The announcement came after Israel and the United States blamed Iran for a drone strike off the coast of Oman this week which hit a tanker operated by an Israeli-owned firm, according to Arab News.
On 16 November, Israeli Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi hosted General Kurilla to discuss joint capabilities to counter Iran.
Kochavi reiterated that Washington and Tel Aviv were “developing joint military capabilities at an accelerated rate” against Iran and other threats across the West Asian region.
According to local reports, Kochavi and other senior Israeli officials discussed potential efforts to combat Iran’s alleged presence in Syria and Yemen and prevent weapons transfers to the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah.
Kochavi met with the former head of CENTCOM, General Kenneth McKenzie, on 1 September last year to discuss holding joint military drills with the US air force.
The Pentagon has also been collaborating with Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other nations in West Asia over the past eight months to create a network of unmanned drones to counter Iran in the Persian Gulf.
In addition to the unmanned vessels, the US is “building an experimentation program here in the Middle East to beat adversary drones with our partners,” Kurilla said without further elaborating.
According to Mehr News Agency, the program will introduce “concepts and technology” to develop a fleet of driverless land vehicles equipped with a payload.
Kurilla detailed that all these unmanned systems will be integrated into the same network and “constantly” send information to centers equipped with artificial intelligence software, allowing analysts to receive “crucial” data in real-time.