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US, Bahrain agree to develop joint regional integrated unmanned operations

Bahraini leaders agreed to partner with US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) to accelerate the integration of new unmanned systems into regional maritime operations, US Navy (USN) officials confirmed on 23 September.

Major General Ala Abdulla Seyadi, commander of the Bahrain Coast Guard, Rear Admiral Mohammed Yousif Al Asam, commander of the Royal Bahrain Naval Force, and Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, commander of NAVCENT, US 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces, discussed future opportunities for co-operation, USN officials said.

“This initiative enables us to expand maritime domain awareness on, above, and below the water, and enhance regional deterrence,” Vice Adm Cooper said in a statement. He briefed the Bahraini leaders on NAVCENT's latest unmanned surface, underwater, and aerial vehicles on-site at the US Naval Support Activity Bahrain.

However, the desire to integrate unmanned equipment, systems, and platforms, with manned USN forces is an ongoing USN effort that has ramped up this year.

In trying to prove to Congress that unmanned systems can be operationalised now and are worth the immediate investment the USN wants to make in the technology and platforms – at the expense of other traditional acquisitions – service officials conducted the navy's first-ever fleet exercise involving unmanned systems in April.

For that exercise, the USN created three separate “vignettes” to team and test the operational effectiveness of manned and unmanned systems during the US Pacific Fleet's ‘Unmanned Integrated Battle Problem (UxS IBP) 21' off the California coast, said Rear Admiral James Aiken, tactical commander for the eight-day exercise that ended on 26 April.

The USN also released its official Unmanned Campaign Framework plan on 17 March.

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