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US Navy Use Gulf Drone to Overcome Iran Tensions

September 10, 2021

Following maritime attacks blamed on Iran, the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet announced on Thursday the formation of a new task force in the Gulf using drones and artificial intelligence. The US Naval Forces Central Command, or NAVCENT, said in a statement that the task force would rely on regional and coalition partnerships. “The bottom line is that we’re doing this to develop and integrate unmanned systems and AI as a means to do two things,” NAVCENT commander Brad Cooper explained.

“One, we want to improve our maritime domain recognition, and two, we want to increase deterrence,” he said in the statement. Since February, Iran and its arch-enemy Israel have been accused of engaging in a “shadow war,” in which vessels linked to each nation have been attacked in tit-for-tat exchanges in the Gulf. A British security guard and a Romanian crew member were killed in an attack on the Israeli-linked MT Mercer Street oil products tanker off the coast of Oman on July 29.

Last month, G7 foreign ministers stated that “all available evidence clearly points to Iran” being behind the drone attack. Iran denied the allegations, which came just days before the Islamic republic’s ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi took office. The Mercer Street attack occurred amid stalled talks between Tehran and world powers aimed at reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

According to US Navy spokesman Tim Hawkins, the task force is “dedicated to rapidly integrating autonomous systems and artificial intelligence with maritime operations in the Fifth Fleet region.” “When we talk about integrating new autonomous systems, we’re talking about systems that can be used under, on, and above water”. Iran was also accused in August of hijacking an asphalt and bitumen tanker in the Gulf of Oman, which it denied. The Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, a Gulf kingdom.

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