Middle East Will Be Next Test Bed for Drone Ships, Aircraft as Navy Expands Unmanned Effort

USVs Ranger and Nomad unmanned vessels underway in the Pacific Ocean near the Channel Islands on July 3, 2021. US Navy Photo

Full of merchant traffic and security threats, the densely packed waterways of the Red Sea, Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf will be a testing ground for the Navy’s push to make unmanned systems a practical part of the fleet, service leaders said on Wednesday.

U.S. 5th Fleet’s Task Force 59 will stand up on Thursday and be the second testing outfit for the Navy’s unmanned ships following Surface Development Squadron One (SURFDEVRON) establishment in 2019. The goal of the task force, led by Capt. Michael Brasseur, is to expand the operational use of unmanned platforms in the region and experiment with their concept of operations. 

Instead of working mostly with unmanned aerial vehicles, the task force will help the Navy employ unmanned platforms across all domains, U.S. 5th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Brad Cooper told reporters in a roundtable…