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Quick-fielding contracting model touted for US Navy Task Force 59 unmanned systems in the Middle East

The US Navy Task Force 59 is experimenting with Saildrone platforms. (Saildrone)

The contracting model employed by US Navy (USN) Task Force 59 (TF 59) makes it possible to field, test, and evaluate unmanned systems quickly in the Middle East, according to Michael Stewart, USN Unmanned Task Force lead.

“Task Force 59 is using a fee-for-service contracting model,” Stewart said on 25 May during a media roundtable update on unmanned systems' work. “They can get stuff out there really quick. They see it, lease it, get it into the theatre and test it.”

Established by the US 5th Fleet in September 2021, TF 59 works closely with members of industry and academia as well as other experts to provide operator feedback and help drive the innovation process forward for unmanned systems.

TF 59 is testing the limits of commercial technology, Stewart noted. “They are trying to get to the leading edge of commercial [technology] and see what the gaps are.”

In particular, he cited the task force's work with Martac unmanned surface vessels (USVs) and Saildrone unmanned platforms.

“Task Force 59 is experimenting with it, the Saildrone sensor, to see how it informs AI (artificial intelligence).”

The task force is looking at how sensor networks developed by a platform such as Saildrone can use AI to enhance maritime awareness.

Over an eight-month period, the task force stood up operating hubs for unmanned systems and AI in Bahrain and Aqaba, Jordan while deploying new unmanned systems to a half-dozen bilateral and multilateral exercises, USN officials have noted. Additionally, some of the systems are contributing to daily operations in regional waters by enhancing maritime surveillance.

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