WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A new U.S. Navy task force recently completed its first exercise at sea with unmanned ships navigating in concert with friendly foreign ships, the U.S. 5th Fleet said on Tuesday.
“During the two-day training exercise, Task Force 59 integrated and evaluated new MANTAS T-12 Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs) that operated alongside US manned patrol vessels and maritime assets from Bahrain Defense Force, “according to a Navy statement.
Task Force 59 is a new entity created by the U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain in September and focuses on increasing the use by mariners of unmanned aerial, surface and submarine systems, the period senior officials of the group to reporters. The area of responsibility of the US 5th Fleet includes the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman, the Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean.
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The MANTAS T-12 is an unmanned surface vessel, designed by Maritime Tactical Systems, capable of operating fully or semi-autonomously in waters up to sea state 7, or in waves up to 20 or 30 feet. (Sea states are a universally recognized description of the ocean surface with sea state 1 representing calm waters and sea state 9 indicating waves up to 50 feet high.)
The exercise, dubbed New Horizon, was also the first time that US Navy regional forces have operated unmanned assets alongside partner nations, the statement said.
“Bahrain, as the first regional partner to collaborate with Task Force 59 on an exercise at sea, demonstrates the strengthening of our strategic relationship,” said Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, commander of the US 5th Fleet.
The exercise, which took place Oct. 20-26, included personnel aboard the Firebolt (PC-10) patrol vessel maneuvering near high-speed USVs in formation. The demonstrations included units from the US Naval Forces Central Command, Royal Bahrain Naval Force and Bahrain Coast Guard, as well as US air assets.
“This is an important milestone for our new task force as we accelerate the integration of unmanned systems and artificial intelligence into complex, cross-domain operations at sea,” said Captain Michael Brasseur, Commander Task Force 59, in a written statement. “Real-world assessment is essential. “
The U.S. 5th Fleet Task Force is part of the Navy’s broader efforts to organize and streamline its unmanned capabilities as part of the Chief of Naval Operations Unmanned Task Force. A Navy sponsored “Hack The Machine” event focused on unmanned technologies scheduled for November also contributes to these efforts.
Hack The Machine Unmanned “is the first in a series of public-facing technology challenges designed to accelerate the US Navy’s unmanned task force. This challenge will forge a community of partnership between the Navy, industry and academia for the creation of new high-end unmanned vehicle capabilities, ”according to the event’s website.