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03/11/23: US Navy Demonstrates Unmanned Boat’s Firing Capabilities In Middle East For First Time

The U.S. Navy announced this week that an unmanned vessel fired lethal munitions in the Middle East region for the first time last month.

The live weapons firing exercise took place in the international waters surrounding the Arabian Peninsula on Oct. 23 as part of Exercise Digital Talon, according to a press release from U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT).

NAVENT’s Task Force 59 is the U.S. Navy’s first Unmanned and Artificial Intelligence Task Force, and it undertook the live firing exercise to demonstrate “manned-unmanned teaming” between unmanned vessels and traditionally crewed ships to identify and target hostile forces at sea, the Navy said.

To carry out the firing test, a human operator on shore at Task Force 59s Robotics Operations Center made the engagement decisions and relayed them to the unmanned surface vessel (USV).

A MARTAC T38 Devil Ray USV equipped with a Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile System scored direct hits in multiple firing tests using target boats, the Navy said.

NAVCENT commander Vice Adm. Brad Cooper said it was the second demonstration of advanced unmanned capabilities in the region in as many months. In September, unmanned underwater, surface, and aerial vehicles tracked Iranian Navy and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy vessels over several days in and around the Strait of Hormuz.

“We are focused on the operational application of new, cutting-edge unmanned systems and artificial intelligence technologies. Last month, we integrated 12 different unmanned platforms with manned ships for manned-unmanned teaming operations to conduct enhanced maritime security operations in the waters surrounding the Arabian Peninsula,” Cooper said.

“During Digital Talon, we took a significant step forward and advanced our capability to the next level beyond just maritime domain awareness, which has been a traditional focus with Task Force 59. We have proven these unmanned platforms can enhance fleet lethality. In doing so, we are strengthening regional maritime security and enhancing deterrence against malign activity, he said.

The demonstration comes amid a U.S. buildup of assets in the Mideast region amid Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas militants after the launched a deadly surprise incursion on Oct. 7.

TMX contributed to this article.

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