Idex 2023: US eyes 100 unmanned vessels deployed into Middle East’s maritime security operations

Coordination between forces to improve naval defences and better monitor maritime threats

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Ashwani Kumar

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Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, Commander at US Naval Forces, Central Command, Fifth Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces seen at an earlier visit to the Abu Dhabi Naval Base. –WAM
Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, Commander at US Naval Forces, Central Command, Fifth Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces seen at an earlier visit to the Abu Dhabi Naval Base. –WAM

Published: Wed 22 Feb 2023, 5:49 PM

The US Naval Forces aims to integrate as many as 100 unmanned systems into Middle East region’s maritime security operations, a top official said during the defence exhibition held in Abu Dhabi.

“For decades, we’ve worked closely with our partners, and our relationships are growing and expanding in new ways. One of the more visible ways the US is expanding cooperation with the UAE and our many regional partners is by integrating unmanned systems and AI technologies into regional maritime security operations,” Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, Commander at US Naval Forces, Central Command, Fifth Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces, said during a session held as part of Idex and Navdex 2023.


“I believe that we are witnessing significant breakthroughs every day. By enhancing maritime security and increasing deterrence, we put ourselves in a more promising position for a very bright future together,” he said while delivering a presentation on the ‘Regional progress in strengthening maritime security through unmanned systems and AI technology integration’ held as part of the inaugural Idex Talks.

The session brings together thought leaders, policymakers, and industry experts to discuss the most innovative technologies and solutions in the defence field.


The deployment of 100 unmanned vessels will be part of the US’ Task Force 59 initiative to integrate unmanned systems and artificial intelligence into Middle East operations. It seeks to enhance defence coordination between the GCC member states and the US Central Command, to better monitor maritime threats and improve naval defences by utilising the latest technologies and systems.

“Our vision is to integrate 100 unmanned advanced surface vessels into maritime operations throughout the Middle East by the end of the summer. I'm also pleased to announce today for the first time that we are approaching the halfway point to reach our ultimate goal. Our momentum continues to build as we quickly discover the enormous value that unmanned systems and AI technology integration have in expanding our collective capabilities of tomorrow.”

Vice Admiral Cooper stressed that cooperation and accelerating innovation were essential for strengthening regional maritime security.

“I also believe that we are on the cusp of an unmanned technological revolution and it is exciting to be on the forefront with all of our regional partners every step,” he added.

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