US and Israel Complete Unmanned Surface Vessel Exercise in Gulf of Aqaba
US and Israel Complete Unmanned Surface Vessel Exercise in Gulf of Aqaba

US and Israel Complete Unmanned Surface Vessel Exercise in Gulf of Aqaba

Forces from Israel and the U.S. completed a four-day exercise in the Gulf of Aqaba, September 22. U.S. participants included members of NAVCENT’s unmanned systems and artificial intelligence task force, Task Force 59, and the U.S. Coast Guard. A Devil Ray T-38 and Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessel also participated. The exercise, called Digital Shield, was a bilateral training event between U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) and Israeli naval forces that focused on enhancing maritime awareness using unmanned systems and artificial intelligence in support of vessel boarding operations.

“Integrating unmanned systems with our partners advances our integration efforts,” said Lt. Cmdr. William Ricketts from Task Force 59. “Ultimately, we are strengthening ties and innovating new capabilities with regional partners to enhance maritime security.”

Two unmanned surface vessels, a Saildrone Explorer and Devil Ray T-38 operate in the Gulf of Aqaba, during exercise Digital Shield, Sptember 21. (Photo by U.S. Naval Forces Central Command / U.S. 5th Fleet)

NAVCENT established Task Force 59 in September 2021 to integrate new unmanned systems and artificial intelligence into U.S. naval operations across the Middle East. Since its launch, the task force has operated a suite of new unmanned systems based at operational hubs in Bahrain and Aqaba, Jordan.The task force partners with industry and international forces for operational evaluation and employment. The Middle East region’s unique geography, climate and strategic importance offer an ideal environment for unmanned innovation.

United States Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) is the United States Navy element of United States Central Command (USCENTCOM). Its area of responsibility includes the Red Sea, Gulf of Oman, Persian Gulf, and Arabian Sea. It consists of the United States Fifth Fleet and several other subordinate task forces, including Combined Task Force 150, Combined Task Force 158 and others. NAVCENT is headquartered in Manama, Bahrain and includes maritime forces operating in the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, parts of the Indian Ocean and three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, Suez Canal and Bab al-Mandeb.

Vessels from the Israeli Navy and U.S. Naval Forces Central Command operate in the Gulf of Aqaba with two unmanned surface vessels, a Devil Ray T-38, top, and Saildrone Explorer, bottom, during exercise Digital Shield, September 21. (Photo by U.S. Naval Forces Central Command / U.S. 5th Fleet)