Defense Secretary Visits USS Sentry, Unmanned Systems in Bahrain

By 5th Fleet Public Affairs - NAVCENT | November 21, 2021


Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III visited mine countermeasures ship USS Sentry (MCM 3) while at Naval Support Activity Bahrain, Nov. 21.

Austin met with Sailors from Sentry and USS Gladiator (MCM 11) after both ships returned to Bahrain from a historic transit to the Red Sea where they participated in a bilateral training exercise with Saudi Arabia’s Western Fleet. The voyage marked the first time in seven years U.S. 5th Fleet’s forward-deployed MCMs sailed from the Arabian Gulf to the Red Sea and back, a total of 5,100 nautical miles.

“You ought to feel good about the fact that you are making a significant difference,” Austin told the crew over the ship’s announcement system. “We’re really, really proud of the fact that you just completed a historic transit to the Red Sea and back.”

Austin also met with U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) personnel to learn about how U.S. 5th Fleet is integrating unmanned systems and artificial intelligence with crewed and legacy platforms.

Staff from NAVCENT’s Task Force 52, in charge of U.S. 5th Fleet’s mine warfare assets, briefed the secretary on various unmanned underwater vehicles and next-generation mine countermeasures systems.

“Having surveyed some of the capabilities that you’re using to do your job on a daily basis, it really is extraordinary and impressive,” said Austin. “We couldn’t be more proud of you.”

In September, NAVCENT established a new task force to focus U.S. 5th Fleet efforts on unmanned systems and artificial intelligence integration.

Last month, Task Force 59 conducted the first exercise integrating unmanned surface vessels (USV) with manned assets at sea in the Arabian Gulf. Next month, the task force will establish a joint hub at the Royal Jordanian naval base in Aqaba, Jordan, for USV operations in the Red Sea.

“You ought to feel good about doing some things that are really extraordinary and demonstrate the true capability that you have,” Austin said. “I have no doubt that you will continue to take things to the next level.”

The Middle East region's unique geography, climate, and strategic importance offer an ideal environment for unmanned innovation. The area includes the world's largest standing maritime partnership, Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean.