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The United States Navy has announced the launch of a new joint fleet of unmanned drones in the Middle East with allied nations.

Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, who leads the 5th Fleet, said 100 unmanned drones, both sailing and submersible, would dramatically multiply the surveillance capacities of the US Navy, allowing it to keep a close eye on waters critical to the flow of global oil and shipping.

“By using unmanned systems, we can just simply see more. They’re high reliability and remove the human factor,” Cooper said on the sidelines of a defence exhibition in Abu Dhabi, adding the systems are “the only way to cover on whatever gaps that we have today”.

Cooper said he hopes the drone force using artificial intelligence would be operational by the summer of 2023 to put more “eyes and ears on the water”.

The Bahrain-based 5th Fleet includes the crucial Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20 percent of all oil passes. It also stretches as far as the Red Sea near the Suez Canal, the waterway in Egypt linking the Middle East to the Mediterranean, and the Bab al-Mandeb Strait off Yemen.

The high seas have witnessed a series of assaults and escalations in recent years, following former US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the nuclear deal with Iran and reimpose devastating sanctions.

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Middle East drone force
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