US and UK Conduct Unmanned Exercise in Arabian Gulf

Phantom Scope

Naval forces from the United States and United Kingdom recently tested unmanned surveillance ships in the Arabian Gulf with the aim of enhancing “maritime monitoring” by crewed ships and operators ashore—this according to a statement by the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs. The one-day exercise, dubbed Phantom Scope, took place on Friday, October 7, off the coast of Bahrain with forces from the U.S. 5th Fleet and the U.K. Royal Navy.

The statement describes how three Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessels (USVs) participated alongside guided-missile destroyer USS Delbert D. Black (DDG 119), fast response cutter USCGC Robert Goldman (WPC 1142), and Royal Navy mine countermeasures vessels HMS Chiddingfold (M37) and HMS Bangor (M109).

In August, the Nour News website, which is close to the Iranian National Security Council, announced that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards had seized and then released an unmanned American ship in Gulf waters.

A statement by the U.S. Fifth Fleet at the time confirmed that the U.S. Navy had thwarted the Iranian naval forces’ attempt to seize an unmanned ship operated by the fleet in the Gulf. The Saildrone Explorer, which is equipped with sensors, radars and cameras, was sailing in international waters to collect navigation and unspecified data, according to a Fifth Fleet statement.

The USV has a five-meter steel wing and uses solar and wind energy for power generation and can spend up to a year on a mission.

Since 2020, tensions have escalated in the Gulf region after the United States sent military reinforcements to the area against the backdrop of an attack on two oil tankers in the Sea of Oman as well as the downing of a U.S. reconnaissance plane by an Iranian missile over the Strait of Hormuz.

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