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US – rattled by Iran’s naval power – aims to deploy robots

This picture shows a US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) WAM-V unmanned surface vessel (USV) operating in the Persian Gulf during an event in late 2022.

The United States military has gotten rattled over Iran's growing naval power and its expansion of maritime activities.

Media reports said on Friday that US political and military officials are now urging Washington’s West Asian allies to enhance their maritime forces by deploying new robotic vessels across the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, and parts of the Indian Ocean, as well as the three critical and militarily strategic choke points of the Strait of Hormuz, Bab al-Mandeb and the Suez Canal.

In order for the US and its allies to counter Iran's growing maritime military power, the US has been trying to convince its regional allies to purchase a range of various types of unmanned surface vehicles (USV) robot vessels, which use solar batteries in long-lasting missions to gather data for processing by Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems, to better detect and monitor the movement of the Iranian forces and their vessels in the seas.

The US media reported that the American Navy is looking to deploy 100 various USVs to better monitor the waters around southern Iran, including farther east and west.

“It’s mind-boggling, your entire economy and national survival depends on your export of oil yet you do not have the maritime capabilities to secure your waters," said Bilal Saab, director of the Defense and Security Program at the Washington-based Middle East Institute. The rich Arab Persian Gulf states "have always relied on us” Americans for maintaining security for their regimes, he said.

Commander Tim Hawkins, a spokesman for US and coalition naval forces in Bahrain, said Bahrain and Kuwait had agreed to buy USVs from the US weapons manufacturers and allied factories.

Saildrone is a type of USV using AI with multiple military and scientific applications and can be used to send and receive data at sea for long periods without needing physical maintenance and repair by human operators. Military applications for USVs include high-speed surveillance and reconnaissance, area or sea denial, and strike operations.

The price of USVs ranges from $800,000 to $3 million and depends on their speed, size and capabilities.

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