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Unmanned systems begin to dominate military operations in Gulf

The US Navy conducted another exercise in the Gulf using unmanned systems such as the MAST-13 USV. (US Navy)

Recent events underscore how military operators are beginning to increasingly test and deploy unmanned systems in the Gulf.

US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) utilised Freedom-class littoral combat ship USS Indianapolis (LCS 17) as a staging base and command centre on 27 November for a host of unmanned systems during live weapons firing exercises in the international waters of the central Gulf, US Navy (USN) officials confirmed.

The operations took place during Exercise ‘Digital Talon 2.0', the second of its type in as many months. The exercise featured “manned-unmanned teaming” by integrating Indianapolis , three unmanned surface vehicles, and an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to create a single common operating picture and what is known as a “mesh network” providing targeting data to all stations taking part in the exercise, USN officials said in a statement.

On 28 November “Iranian unmanned aircraft took unsafe and unprofessional actions near USS Dwight D Eisenhower (CVN 69) (IKE) during routine flight operations in international waters,” US NAVCENT officials said.

“The Dwight D Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (IKECSG) was conducting routine flight operations in the international waters of the central … Gulf when it detected an unmanned aerial vehicle,” NAVCENT officials said. “The UAV was visually identified as Iranian. Its closest point of approach to IKE was approximately 1,500 yards. Multiple hails and warnings were ignored by Iran.”

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