The International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) has finished a three-day maritime exercise, Sentinel Shield, on 9 January 2023 in the Arabian Gulf.

During the naval drill, the exercise had seen uncrewed systems being integrated with artificial intelligence for the second time in six months.

Coalition Task Force (CTF) Sentinel, which is the operational task force of IMSC, completed the exercise, which has seen participation of the US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Delbert D. Black (DDG 119) and two Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessels from US 5th Fleet.

CTF Sentinel’s director of plans and Royal Saudi Navy captain Alamri Assem said: “We planned this exercise to demonstrate how artificial intelligence and unmanned systems effectively increase CTF Sentinel’s maritime domain awareness to maintain maritime security in Middle Eastern waters.”

The exercise had seen uncrewed and artificial intelligence systems being operated along with Delbert D. Black and CTF Sentinel’s command centre onshore in Bahrain.

These systems could aid in locating and identifying objects in nearby waters and transmit visual depictions to watchstanders.

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CTF Sentinel deputy commander and US Navy captain Brian Granger said: “Saildrones transmitted information on contacts of interest and our watch officers coordinated with the destroyer for further monitoring.”

CTF Sentinel earlier finished a similar exercise on 23 August 2022 which had seen participation of the Royal Bahrain Naval Force ship RBNS Ahmed Al-Fateh (P20) and US Coast Guard patrol boat USCGC Baranof (WPB 1318) along with another Saildrone Explorer from US 5th Fleet.

This late-summer exercise was the first that IMSC planners had particularly designed a Sentinel Shield exercise to integrate uncrewed systems.

IMSC was set up in July 2019 to help tackle the increased threats to freedom of navigation for merchant mariners sailing through international waters in the Middle East.

CTF Sentinel was formed four months later to stop state-sponsored malign activity and support the merchant shipping industry in the Bab al-Mandeb and Strait of Hormuz.

Currently, IMSC membership has 11 countries – Albania, Bahrain, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, UAE, UK, and the US.