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30/10/23: US Navy tests T-38 Devil Ray unmanned surface vessel in Middle East amid war in Gaza

On October 26, 2023, the US Department of Defense (DoD) released images of the deployment of a Maritime Tactical Systems (MARTAC) T-38 Devil Ray unmanned surface vessel (USV) in the Arabian Gulf. This USV is part of Task Force 59, a unit within the US Navy's 5th Fleet. Task Force 59 integrates unmanned systems and artificial intelligence with maritime operations in the US Navy 5th Fleet's area of operations to ensure maritime security and stability in the Middle East region.

The primary objective of this deployment is to support large-scale operations by combining Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs), Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs), and Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs).

Task Force 59 is a specialized unit within the US Navy that focuses on integrating advanced technology, including unmanned systems and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, to improve maritime operations in the Middle East region.

Established in 2021, it reached full operational capability in January 2023. Task Force 59's progress has been facilitated by participating in bilateral and international maritime exercises and gaining valuable operational experience. Collaborations with international military partners, such as Israel, Bahrain, and Jordan, focus on USVs and AI technologies, with expectations of future expansion.

The future vision of Task Force 59 includes the concept of a "digital ocean," which involves the intelligent synthesis of data from various sources, including seabed sensors, satellites, buoys, and other technologies, to provide continuous maritime monitoring.

The Navy also plans to establish uncrewed task forces globally, modeled after Task Force 59, to replicate its achievements. Leadership opportunities are being extended to junior naval officers, particularly surface warfare officers (SWOs), to build on the experience gained by this Task Force.

The T-38 is a USV (Unmanned Surface Vessel) developed by the American company Maritime Tactical Systems (MARTAC). In July 2020, MARTAC announced the launch of MANTAS Medium Category Vessels, including the MANTAS T24 (24 ft or 7m), T38 (11m), and T50 (50 ft or 15m) variants.

The T-38 USV can cruise at a speed of 25 knots (46 km/h) with a burst speed of 80 knots (148 km/h). It has a weight of 2,950 kg and a draft of just 18 inches (46 cm). The T38 can carry a payload of up to 2,050 kg. Given its speed and carrying capacity, it's clear how it can fulfill logistics functions in amphibious operations.

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