| 28 May 2024, Tuesday |

US launches Mideast drone task force amid Iran tensions

After years of maritime attacks linked to ongoing tensions with Iran, The US Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet said on Wednesday it will launch a new task force that incorporates airborne, sailing and underwater drones
Navy officials refused to identify which systems they would introduce from Bahrain. However, they promised the coming months would see the drones stretch their capabilities across a region of chokepoints crucial to both global energy supplies and worldwide shipping.

“We want to put more systems out in the maritime domain above, on and below the sea,” said Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, who leads the 5th Fleet. “We want more eyes on what’s happening out there.”
The 5th Fleet includes the crucial Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Arabian Gulf through which 20 percent of all oil passes. It also stretches as far as the Red Sea reaches near the Suez Canal, the waterway in Egypt linking the Mideast to the Mediterranean, and the Bab Al-Mandab Strait off Yemen.
The systems being used by the 5th Fleet’s new Task Force 59 will include some of those involved in an April test led by the Navy’s Pacific Fleet. Drones used in that exercise included ultra-endurance aerial surveillance drones, surface ships the Sea Hawk and the Sea Hunter and smaller underwater drones that resemble torpedoes.
The 5th Fleet includes shallow water areas, salty waters and temperatures in the summertime that can go above 45 degrees Celsius with high humidity. That can prove rough for crewed vessels, let alone those running remotely.
“I think that environment really suits us well to experiment and move faster,” Cooper said. “And our belief is if the new systems can work here, they can probably work anywhere else and can scale them across other fleets.”