The U.S. and Israel held “Digital Shield” exercise in the Gulf of Aqaba located to the east of the Sinai Peninsula, Sept. 22, involving unmanned vessels powered by artificial intelligence.
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.
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.
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.
Iran attempted to seize Saildrone USVs that took part in “Digital Shield” twice recently
Saildrone USV is the same vessel that Iran attempted to hijack on Aug. 29-30 in the Persian Gulf. On Sept. 1, a Navy official told USNI News that the Iranian Navy briefly captured two Saildrone USVs operated by the U.S. 5th Fleet. The USVs were collecting imagery near international waters when Tehran seized and detained them.
“At around 2 p.m. (local time) on Sept. 1, U.S. 5th Fleet detected the Iranian ship approaching both unmanned vessels and removing them from the water. U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyers USS Nitze (DDG 94) and USS Delbert D. Black (DDG 119) were operating nearby and immediately responded. Nitze and Delbert D. Black also each launched an MH-60R Sea Hawk from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 48,” according to 5th Fleet.
“Nitze and Delbert D. Black remained on scene communicating with the Iranian warship to deescalate the situation and recover the seized Saildrones. The Iranian warship released the Saildrones at 8 a.m. on Sept. 2.”