“Navy Expands Unmanned Operations to 4th Fleet” –Defense One

GULF OF AQABA (Feb. 13, 2022) The U.S. Coast Guard Sentinel-class cutter USCGC Glen Harris (WPC 1144) sails near a U.S sail drone explorer during the International Maritime Exercise/Cutlass Express (IMX) 2022, Feb. 13, 2022. IMX/CE 2022 is the largest multinational training event in the Middle East, involving more than 60 nations and international organizations committed to enhancing partnerships and interoperability to strengthen maritime security and stability. (U.S. Army photo by Cpl. DeAndre Dawkins)

Defense One reports,

“Drones are heading to the southern waters of 4th Fleet, which will follow 5th Fleet’s pioneering experiments with unmanned craft in the Middle East, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro announced Tuesday at the Navy League’s 2023 Sea-Air-Space Conference.”

This is great, and not unexpected, but I noted two things that concern me. First there was not mention of making this an international effort, as has been the case in 5th Fleet, and second, that they want to start in the Caribbean where we already have excellent maritime domain awareness, instead of the eastern Pacific drug transit zone where these are really needed.

Del Toro added, “it’s fair to say however, you want to start small and build upon it, obviously. And so you know, focus perhaps on the Caribbean Basin first, and then expand beyond that in the future.”

I can see that they would be more comfortable operating UxVs in the Caribbean, because it is closer to home, but in the Eastern Pacific we could look at Uncrewed Surface Vessels (USV) using acoustic sensors to help detect semisubmersibles. This is something that is not being done in 5th Fleet so it would provide a different sensor and target set and perhaps an opportunity to cross over some of the learning to ASW.

Of course, most of the 4th Fleet’s surface ships are Coast Guard Cutters.

1 thought on ““Navy Expands Unmanned Operations to 4th Fleet” –Defense One

  1. An additional report here that seems to indicate this will be an international effort,
    “While the unmanned experimentation will help the Navy pursue the hybrid fleet of the future and take lessons for future operations in other regions, Del Toro said it will also help the U.S. work with allies in SOUTHCOM as it integrates other nations into the experimentation, as the Navy has done in 5th Fleet.”

    There was also mention of mothership operations which might make it easier to operate Webber class WPCs in the Eastern Pacific.


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