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30/11/23: USS Indianapolis teams with drones to destroy boat in Persian Gulf exercise

A U.S. Navy littoral combat ship coordinated with unmanned vessels and a flying drone to destroy a target boat during an exercise in the Persian Gulf, service officials said.

The exercise Monday came amid increasing encounters between Iranian drones and the U.S. military in Middle East waters, including one this week described by Navy senior officials as unsafe and unprofessional.

The Freedom-class USS Indianapolis networked with the drones to identify the target, which was destroyed by a MARTAC T-38 Devil Ray surface drone armed with missiles, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. 5th Fleet said in a statement Wednesday.

The exercise relied on a person at Task Force 59’s Robotics Operations Center in Bahrain to make decisions, according to the statement.

The results prove “these unmanned platforms paired with our manned combat ships can enhance fleet lethality,” Capt. Colin Corridan, the task force’s commodore, said in the statement.

The exercise involving USS Indianapolis was the second time in just over a month the Navy used a drone in the Middle East to fire lethal munitions. The earlier go-around also used a T-38 Devil Ray to destroy a target boat, the service said.

Other drones in the Monday exercise included a Flexrotor aircraft, an Arabian Fox MAST-13 and an additional T-38.

Task Force 59 is known for its experimentation with drones in patrolling Middle East waters.

In September, underwater, surface and aerial drones tracked Iranian military vessels over several days during patrols in and around the Strait of Hormuz, the Navy said earlier this month.

The exercise on Monday came two days before the destroyer USS Carney shot down a drone coming toward the ship that was launched from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen, U.S. officials said. The Houthis are backed by Iran.

On Tuesday, an Iranian drone came within 1,500 yards of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower during routine flight operations in the central Persian Gulf, Navy officials said.

Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, 5th Fleet commander, characterized Iran’s drone flight as “unsafe, unprofessional and irresponsible.”

Days earlier, the destroyer USS Thomas Hudner shot down multiple one-way attack drones, which also originated from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen, U.S. officials said.

Iran-linked militants have launched dozens of attacks on land-based U.S. military forces in Syria and Iraq since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7.

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