Sept. 23 (UPI) -- Bahraini leaders committed Thursday to partner with a new U.S. Navy task force to ramp up new unmanned systems for maritime operations, the Navy said on Wednesday.
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Major Gen. Ala Abdulla Seyadi, Bahrain coast guard commander, and Rear Admiral Mohammed Yousif Al Asam, Royal Bahrain Naval Force commander, made the commitment during their visit to the U.S. Navy installation in Bahrain, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, or NAVCENT, announced.
Under the partnership, Bahrain's maritime forces will collaborate with the new task force, called Task Force 59, next month "on a manned-unmanned teaming exercise to evaluate advanced unmanned surface vessels," according to NAVCENT.
Bahrain's maritime forces will be the first regional partners to collaborate with the new task force on the at-sea exercise, which will launch a series of maritime exercises that integrate manned and unmanned systems in operations with regional and coalition partners.
NAVCENT set up earlier this month the first of its kind Navy task force that will use a vast ocean area in the Middle East as a setting to integrate unmanned systems and artificial intelligence into maritime operations.
Task Force 59 will focus on the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations, including nearly 2.5 square miles of water in the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian ocean.
Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, commander of NAVCENT, commented on future opportunities for cooperation in the statement on the Middle Eastern country's leaders visit.
"We have an enduring strategic relationship with the Kingdom of Bahrain and our mutual commitment to advancing new unmanned systems demonstrates us strengthening the partnership in a new way," Cooper said.
"This initiative enables us to expand maritime domain awareness on, above and below the water and enhance regional deterrence," Cooper said.
Cooper also briefed Bahraini leaders on NAVCENT's latest unmanned surface, underwater and aerial vehicles, according to the statement.
The Middle East region's unique geography, climate, and strategic importance offer an ideal setting for unmanned innovation with three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal, and the Strait of Bab-al-Mandeb in southern Yemen, the Navy has said.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps announced their unmanned system's strategy, which included building a digital infrastructure to integrate drone capabilities.