Navy

Navy planning to launch Mideast drone fleet with allies

Associated Press/Michael Sohn

The U.S. Navy is planning to launch a fleet of unmanned drones in the Middle East together with allied nations.

Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of U.S. 5th Fleet, told The Associated Press that 100 unmanned drones would increase surveillance capabilities of the Navy so it can better monitor areas important to the flow of oil and shipping.

Cooper said he hoped the drones would be operational by the summer of 2023. It wasn’t clear which nations would join the U.S. in the fleet 

“By using unmanned systems, we can just simply see more. They’re high-reliability and remove the human factor,” Cooper told the AP. He added that the drones are “the only way to cover on whatever gaps that we have today.”

The Hill has reached out to the Navy for more information.

5th Fleet’s area of operations spans 2.5 million square miles and includes the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and Strait of Bab el-Mandeb in Yemen.

The Navy last week concluded a large-scale international maritime exercise in the Middle East, which spanned across the Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and North Indian Ocean.

Cooper told the AP that it is “well established” that Iran is the primary regional threat the U.S. is addressing.

The AP noted that since former President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal, vessels in the region have been targeted by Iranian forces and other suspicious attacks. Further complicating matters is that Iran-backed Houthis have dispatch drone boats toward Saudi Arabia’s waters.  

Meanwhile, there had also been a series of encounters between Iranian and American naval forces.

Cooper, however, said there hasn’t been much interaction with U.S. forces.

“If you look back over the last couple of months, I would say it’s status quo,” Cooper told the outlet. “There have been some periods where they have had an uptick in activity. … The overwhelming majority of these interactions are safe and professional.”

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