The US Naval Forces Central Command has organized a new unit for unmanned operations in the Middle East.
Called “The Pioneers,” Task Group 59.1 will manage teaming of unmanned and manned systems to increase maritime security in the region.
The group will facilitate missions under Task Force 59, the navy’s first unmanned and artificial intelligence (AI) segment in the Middle East.
Following its establishment in 2021, Task Force 59 has operated autonomous capabilities across installations in Bahrain, Aqaba, and Jordan.
“Breaking the molds of the legacy acquisition model requires a level of connective tissue between industry partners and the end user operators, and 59.1 answers that bell,” Task Force 59 Commodore Capt. Colin Corridan said.
“Our Sailors will be there to ensure seamless integration of new tech introduced to operators while in theater.”
Overseeing ‘Hybrid Fleet’
Task Force 59’s objectives are in line with the US 5th Fleet to maintain maritime defense and stability between the Red Sea, Arabian Gulf, Gulfs of Oman and Aden, the Arabian Sea, and parts of the Indian Ocean.
The 2.5 million square mile (6.5 million square kilometers) area of operations includes critical choke points such as the Suez Canal, Strait of Hormuz, and Strait of Bab el Mandeb.
The innovative talent pool that is attracted to working with unmanned systems is unmatched, and the operator trust and experience with robots is ultimately developing the next generation of Sailors that will operate the hybrid fleet,” Corridan stated.
“The handpicked team that is 59.1, identified to pioneer this endeavor, will be leading the way for the Navy in the hybrid fleet ecosystem. I’m very excited for what lies ahead for the pioneers.”
Recent Autonomous, AI Operations in Middle East
The US 5th Fleet launched drones over the Arabian Peninsula last year to monitor the Iranian Navy and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps activities. The US Navy also partnered with its UAE counterparts to hold their first unmanned systems and AI bilateral exercise in the Arabian Gulf the same year.
In 2022, the Central Command announced the deployment of more than 100 unmanned vessels in the Middle East to deter maritime threats.