US Task Force 59 and Israel's Navy Recently Executed 4-Day "Digital Shield" To Combat Future Red Sea Maritime Attacks

DOPE Quick Reads

The US and Israel conducted a joint military exercise last week in the Gulf of Aqaba. The Gulf of Aqaba is the northeastern arm of the Red Sea. The two collaborated to "improve maritime awareness through artificial intelligence and unmanned systems." Digital Shield was a four-day exercise using the US' 5th Fleet's unmanned Task Force 59 and the Israeli Navy's 915th Fleet's manned Vessels. [i]
A US Navy Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessel sails in the Gulf of Aqaba in Feb. 2022.Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

Sources allege tensions between the US have heightened, especially in light of growing apprehension due to Iran's attempts to bait the US into a provoked action, even if it places Iran's own people at risk. Task Force 59's Lt. Cmdr. William Ricketts further explained,

Ultimately, we are strengthening ties and innovating new capabilities with regional partners to enhance maritime security." [ii]

Most recently, Iran seized two US Saildrone Explorers in the Red Sea. The two Saildrone's were pulled onto the Iranian vessel from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy. Initially, the drones were reported as having been covered with a tarp. Watch the video below for details on the patrol ship USS Thunderbuilt which witnessed the Iranian naval vessel towing a sea drone that belonged to the US Navy. [ix]

The Navy's Task Force 59 began in Sep. 2021. It is believed to be partly in response to acts such as the attempted taking of US Saldrone Explorers. It integrates manned and unmanned systems with artificial intelligence. In totality, it employs,

Unmanned aerial systems (UAS), unmanned sea vessels (USV), and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) in numbers that combine their capabilities with manned platforms for multidomain operations in all areas of the maritime battlespace from air to below the sea with the goal of using unmanned systems that have not been used before." [iv]

Despite Vice Admiral Brad Cooper's announcement of the 5th Fleet's Task Force 59, The US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) would not provide further details on the specifications of Task Force 59, stating, "We're not discussing specific platforms or capabilities." [v]
Screenshot of a video showing support ship Shahid Bazar, left, unlawfully towing a Saildrone Explorer in int'l waters.Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

What is known is that the US Saildrone Explorer Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV) is one vessel used by Task Force 59. With an endurance of 365 days, the Saildrone Explorer USV is operated in maritime areas. The USV collects data autonomously from the oceans. The data can then be processed for use with many different applications. [iii]

The hull Length of the Saildrone Explorer USV is 23ft, with a wing height of 15ft and a draft of 6ft. It navigates autonomously through large swathes of the oceans using waypoint-to-waypoint navigation. Four cameras are onboard, coupled with an automatic identification system (AIS) transceiver. [vi]

Further, the Saildrone Explorer can measure wind speed and direction using sensors such as the gill Windmaster 3D Ultrasonic anemometer. Air temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, and photosynthetically active radiation can also be measured. [vii]

The average sail speed of the USV is 3 knots, roughly 3.5 mph. The vessel s impressive ability to conduct long-endurance missions collecting data for more than 12 months "in open ocean conditions." Additionally, "the usage of sustainable energy reduces the carbon footprint of the platform." [viii]


[i] NAVCENT Public Affairs, US and Israel Complete Unmanned Exercise in Gulf of Aqaba, (Sep. 22, 2022)

[ii] Id.

[iii] Naval Technology, Saildrone Explorer Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV), USA, (Feb. 4, 2022)

[iv] Peter Ong, US Navy's New Task Force 59 Teams Manned With Unmanned Systems For CENTCOM's Middle East, (Sep. 9, 2021)

[v] Id.

[vi] Naval Technology, Saildrone Explorer Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV), USA, (Feb. 4, 2022)

[vii] Id.

[viii] Id.

[ix] Helene Cooper, Iran Seizes, Then Releases Two US Drones, Officials Say, (Sep. 2, 2022)

Comments / 6

Published by

A daily blend of politics, history, current events, science, astronomy, int'l, and military news.

Aliso Viejo, CA

More from DOPE Quick Reads

Comments / 0