Largest Unmanned Exercise in Arabian Gulf During IMX/CE 2022

Largest unmanned training exercise
Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessel (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Dawson Roth)

Published Feb 11, 2022 7:07 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Navy in partnership with 60 nations and international organizations is conducting the largest multinational naval exercise in the Middle East. Know as IMX 2022 it is being conducted in combination with exercise Cutlass Express by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa in East African coastal regions and the West Indian Ocean. The 18-day exercise is also unique as it is the largest unmanned maritime exercise in the world serving as a training and proving ground for a broad range of cutting-edge systems.

The overall exercise launched in the Middle East included 50 ships from a broad range of nations including such diverse partners as Israel, Egypt, and Pakistan. More than 9,0000 personnel are participating in the exercise. The unmanned portion encompassed 80 aerial, surface, and underwater vehicles from 10 nations.


Ships from partner nations of Combined Task Force North participate in a photo exercise during IMX/CE 2022 in the Arabian Gulf (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anita Chebahtah)


The International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC), which was formed in July 2019 to address increasing threats to the freedom of navigation in the international waters of the Middle East and its operational arm, Coalition Task Force (CTF) Sentinel, participated in unmanned integration operations in the Arabian Gulf during International Maritime Exercise/Cutlass Express 2022.

IMSC personnel operated with two Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessels. The Saildrones were launched by Task Force X, a combined task force established for conducting portions of the exercise focused on unmanned systems and artificial intelligence integration. Leaders from IMSC observed the capabilities of unmanned systems deployed during an operational training scenario at sea from aboard the Royal Bahrain Naval Force ship RBNS Al Muharraq.

“The exercise was a perfect demonstration of progress towards delivering a genuinely ‘digital ocean’ where navies increasingly employ a combination of manned and unmanned systems, on, above, and below the surface, to deliver unparalleled situational awareness and operational choice to the commander,” said Commodore Don Mackinnon, commander of CTF Sentinel.


Saildrones awaiting their integration into the Arabian Gulf.  (Photo by Royal Navy Lt Cdr. Michael Cox)


The Saildrone Explorer deployed in the exercise is a 23-foot-long, 16-foot-tall USV reliant on wind power for propulsion. The vessel houses a package of sensors powered through solar energy for building a shared picture of the surrounding seas. It is a high-endurance system capable of year-long deployments using its camera and instruments to provide data ranging from meteorology to bottom scanning and surveillance camera.

The overall exercise involved several Marine Operation Centers seeking to test elements such as interoperability and sharing data. A broad range of systems were involved, some operated local from the centers or aboard naval vessels, while others are remotely controlled. They ranged from vessels for intelligence gathering, surveillance, and reconnaissance. 


Observing the RBNS Al MUHARRAQ Bahraini Sentry participating in an operation integrating sail drones in International Maritime Exercise/Cutlass Express 2022 (IMSC photo)