A number of unmanned drones from the United States, “Israel”, and Gulf allies are aimed at targeting Tehran in the Gulf region.
The US Navy, along with “Israel,” Saudi Arabia, and other Middle Eastern countries, is working to establish a network of unmanned drones to limit Iran’s military in the region; a program that the Pentagon hopes will serve as a model for operations around the world.
US commanders declined to reveal the number of airborne and marine drones deployed by the US and its partners or to provide data on where and how they are employed, citing secret information. However, they claim that unmanned vessels and aircraft are providing them with improved visibility over the region’s seas.
The Navy plans to have 100 tiny surveillance drones operating from the Suez Canal in Egypt to waters off the Iranian coast by next summer, relaying data to a command center in Bahrain, the headquarters of the US Fifth Fleet.
“I think we are truly on the cusp of an unmanned technological revolution,” said Capt. Michael Brasseur, who heads the US Navy task force working on the drone fleet in the Middle East.
The drone effort, now in its sixth month, is part of a growing cooperation partnership between the United States, “Israel”, and normalizing Gulf nations. It is similar to another US-led initiative to bring “Israel” and its Gulf neighbors together to form a regional air-“defense” network.
What are the drone capabilities?
US Navy officers and private contractors monitor the drones’ movement from the Robotic Operation Center in Manama. When the drones locate “dark targets” or “suspected threats”, video screens flash red.
The drones, which can float for up to six months at sea, can send back detailed photographs and data. Analysts examine the photographs to see their depictions.
It is claimed that the drones being tested right now are unarmed. Defense analysts, however, expect that the Navy will eventually arm some of its ships, which will undoubtedly cause fierce debate.
Concerns have been expressed by US senators about the Navy’s ambitions to create larger unmanned ships, which might cost billions of dollars. And the military must still figure out how to employ smaller drones, shield them from attack, and act on the data they transmit.
The US drone operations amid mounting US concern about Iran’s expanding influence in one of the world’s most important economic thoroughfares, right in Iran’s backyard. And to this end, Tehran deployed ships and submarines equipped with aerial drones and has warned it is prepared to use them against any imminent danger threatening its interests in the region.
“If the enemies make a mistake, these drones will present them with a regrettable response,” Abdolrahim Mousavi, an Iranian army commander, told reporters during a recent visit by President Biden to the region thousands of miles away from home.
Red Sea exercises
Earlier this year, the US Navy confirmed that it carried out maritime maneuvers, called the International Maritime Exercise (IMX), in which 9,000 people from 60 countries participated. The 18-day biennial exercises were launched on January 31.
The exercises, which took place in the Red Sea, were led by the Israeli forces, as well as many other countries that do not have official diplomatic ties with “Israel”, including Pakistan.
The US Navy is testing a range of unmanned craft, including one that looks like a speedboat and can reach speeds of nearly 90 miles an hour. It is also working with Predator-style aerial drones and the Saildrone, which can stay at sea for six months.
The true test of the drones will be whether they provide intelligence that leads to action—such as the seizure of contraband cargo.
“Just watching alone might limit Iran’s behavior,” said Stacie Pettyjohn, director of the Defense Program at the Center for a New American Security. “But if they realize that they are not going to follow through and do anything, it may not be much of a deterrent,” she claimed.
The Israeli occupation forces confirmed on June 2 that “Israel” has concluded its “Chariots of Fire” exercises in the Red Sea, which included a Dolphin-class submarine and Sa’ar corvettes.