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U.S. 5th Fleet Launches New Task Force to Integrate Unmanned Systems

09 September 2021

From Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Roland Franklin, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command / U.S. 5th Fleet   

NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN - U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) established a new task force, Sept. 9, to rapidly integrate unmanned systems and artificial intelligence with maritime operations in the 5th Fleet area of operations.

Task Force 59 is the first U.S. Navy task force of its kind.

The U.S. 5th Fleet region’s unique geography, climate, and strategic importance offer an ideal environment for innovation.

“The bottom line on why we’re doing this is so that we can develop and integrate unmanned systems and AI as a means to do two things,” said Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of NAVCENT, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces. “One, enhance our maritime domain awareness, and two, increase deterrence.”

Cooper also stated the task force would rely heavily on regional and coalition partnerships.

“The launch of Task Force 59 really invigorates our partnerships around this region as we expand our common operating picture.”

Cooper appointed Capt. Michael D. Brasseur, an expert in maritime robotics, as Task Force 59’s first commodore during a commissioning ceremony onboard Naval Support Activity Bahrain, Thursday. Brasseur served as a founding member of the NATO Maritime Unmanned Systems Initiative prior to arriving in Bahrain.

"It's an honor to be named commander of this historic and innovative task force," said Brasseur. "As we continue to adapt and implement cutting edge technology, I fully expect our talented team will enrich and enhance the 5th Fleet mission."

Brasseur’s staff includes experienced operators with region-specific expertise, including directors for unmanned systems; unmanned exercises; task force integration; cyber, AI and space; and partnership opportunities.

In the coming weeks, the task force aims to build trust and confidence in human-machine teaming through a series of operations at sea. International Maritime Exercise (IMX) 22, slated for next year, will provide NAVCENT a real-world opportunity to demonstrate the resiliency and scalability of human-machine teaming technologies.

IMX-22 will include more than 60 nations and international organizations and features the extensive use of unmanned systems in various operational scenarios designed to challenge the technology in a dynamic environment and ultimately enhance partner capabilities through manned and unmanned teaming.

The U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses nearly 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The region is comprised of 21 countries and includes three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab-al-Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.


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