The US is attempting to persuade its Middle Eastern allies to deploy dozens of robot ships across the Arabian Peninsula in order to better detect threats from nations like Iran and to safeguard the waterways that are essential to international trade and the oil trade.
Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, who oversees the coalitions and the Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain, stated in an interview that the US wants to have more than 100 unmanned surface vehicles — also known as robots at sea — operational by the end of the summer.
An initial target of 50 was met in February and the technology delivers a cost-effective and efficient way of deepening US partnerships, he said.
Cooper played down the joint naval drills held in March between China, Iran and Russia in the Gulf Oman.
“You can’t compare a rudimentary exercise to the broad sophisticated integration with large partners that we are leading here,” said Cooper, referring to those drills.
He described a US-led maritime exercise earlier this year as the largest in the region, involving 42 countries, 7,000 people, 35 ships and 30 USVs. It also included a mock patient transfer in a USV.
The plan is being carried out as Iran seized a second oil tanker in less than a week.
The US Navy released footage of boats it said were owned by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps swarming the Panama-flagged oil tanker Niovi as it sailed through the Strait of Hormuz, between Iran and Oman.
Commander Tim Hawkins, a spokesperson for US and coalition naval forces in Bahrain. The Iran tanker seizures are precisely why the “more enhanced visibility provided by USVs is critical to regional security and stability,” he said in emailed comments.