US Sea King helicopter over Strait of Hormuz

Task Force 59: US Navy announces drone plan for Middle East waters

The commander of the US Navy's 5th Fleet says he wants to "put more systems out in the maritime domain above, on, and below the sea".

US Sea King helicopter over Strait of Hormuz

A new US Navy unit will deploy advanced drones in and above Middle Eastern waters as tension continues between Iran and the West.

The Bahrain-based 5th Fleet announced Task Force 59 this week, with the fleet's commander saying he wants to "put more systems out in the maritime domain above, on and below the sea".

Vice Admiral Brad Cooper wants "more eyes" on 5th Fleet's patch, which includes the crucial Strait of Hormuz - the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of all oil passes.

Although the type of drones destined for Task Force 59 were not identified, the formation is expected to use systems featured in an April test led by the navy's Pacific Fleet.

Watch: A previous incident between US and Iranian boats in the Gulf.

Drones used in that exercise included ultra-endurance aerial surveillance drones, Sea Hawk and the Sea Hunter surface vessels, and smaller underwater drones that resemble torpedoes.

The 5th Fleet's patch also includes shallow water areas, salty waters and temperatures that can exceed 45C with high humidity.

"I think that environment really suits us well to experiment and move faster," Vice Admiral Cooper said.

"And our belief is if the new systems can work here, they can probably work anywhere else and (we) can scale them across other fleets."

Watch: The US accused Iran of 'harassing' ships in the Persian Gulf last year.

Hostility in the Middle East has worsened since the Trump administration's decision to unilaterally withdraw from Iran's nuclear deal with world powers.

While US President Joe Biden has said he is willing to re-enter the deal, negotiations in Vienna have stalled since the election of a new Iranian leader.

"We're very aware of Iran's posture and we'll be prepared to deal with that appropriately," said Vice Admiral Cooper.

Cover image: File photo of the Strait of Hormuz (Picture: US Navy).