(FiveNation.com)- On Monday, the Navy’s 5th Fleet announced the launch of a joint fleet of unmanned drones with allied nations to patrol the Middle East’s volatile waters.
Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, who commands the 5th Fleet based in the Middle East, told the Associated Press that these 100 new unmanned drones, both sailing and submersible, will increase the surveillance capabilities of the US Navy dramatically. The fleet will allow the Navy to keep a close eye on waters critical to the flow of global oil and shipping.
In recent years, trade routes at sea have been targeted by Tehran. The 5th Fleet, based in Bahrain includes the crucial Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20 percent of the global supply of oil passes.
The 5th Fleet also patrols as far as the Red Sea, the Suez Canal, and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait off Yemen.
Cooper confirmed that the primary threat to the region right now is Iran and its proxy forces. Currently, Iranian proxy militias operate in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, giving Tehran significant military influence in the region.
In addition to Iranian-backed attacks against tankers in the region, there have also been several tense encounters between Iranian and US naval vessels in Mideast waters. However, Cooper notes that in the last couple of months as the negotiations in Vienna to restart the nuclear deal are reaching an end-stage, these incidents are slacking off.
This shared threat from Iran has created a political realignment in the Middle East. In 2020, the Trump administration brokered peace deals that normalized relations between Israel and both the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
The deals even extended to a form of military diplomacy with Israel joining the massive US-led naval exercise in the region earlier this month and publicly participating with other Gulf states including Saudi Arabia.
Cooper told the Associated Press that Israel will likely join in the Navy’s new unmanned naval drone task force in the region, saying there will be exercises in the future where the US and Israel will work side-by-side.