The commander of the US Navy’s Middle East-based 5th Fleet stationed in Bahrain, Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, hinted in an interview with CNN on Wednesday about the involvement of unmanned Israeli vessels in joint operations with the Americans in the Middle East.
Asked by the CNN interviewer if the US is considering adding unmanned Israeli boats to its joint Middle East operations, Cooper answered: “Yes. I think it’s better said we look to work with the Israelis on a bilateral and multilateral basis using the equipment that they have today. Their unmanned systems and our unmanned systems, just like we do with our cruise ships, where we have exercises with their cruise ships and ours, and we do it on a multilateral basis.”
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Last Monday, the 5th Fleet announced the launch of a new joint fleet of unmanned sea drones with allied nations to patrol vast sections of the Persian Gulf to confront Iran. Cooper told The Associated Press in a defense exhibition in Abu Dhabi that 100 unmanned sea drones, both above and below the surface, were going to dramatically increase his fleet’s surveillance capabilities in monitoring Iranian threats to the flow of the global oil and shipping in the Gulf.
“By using unmanned systems, we can just simply see more. They’re high-reliability and remove the human factor,” Cooper said, adding these systems are “the only way to cover whatever gaps that we have today.”
Cooper said he hopes that by mid-2023 the US Navy would possess fully operational sea drones using artificial intelligence.
The Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, about 200 kilometers off the coast of Iran. Last week, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Cooper, who had already been visited by Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Israeli Navy Commander Brig. Gen. David Salma.
Following Bennett’s meeting with Cooper, his office issued a statement saying: “The Prime Minister welcomed the cooperation between the IDF and the United States military, which contributes to the security of the two countries. The United States Fifth Fleet is a significant factor in maintaining stability in the region in the face of various security threats, and he expects that the joint work of the countries of the region and our strong ally, the United States, will continue and strengthen.”