Navy to stand up new AI and unmanned system task force

The task force will focus on testing new tech and integrating systems.
Sea Hunter, an entirely new class of unmanned sea surface vehicle developed in partnership between the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), recently completed an autonomous sail from San Diego to Hawaii and back (MDUSV) project. (U.S. Navy photo)

The Navy’s 5th Fleet in Central Command is establishing a new task force focused on integrating artificial intelligence with new unmanned systems, officials told reporters Wednesday.

Task Force 59, which will officially launch Sept. 9, will pull technical experts along with outside advisors from offices like the Joint AI Center to test new AI and unmanned tech. The work will focus on integrating new AI tech into unmanned systems across domains, not just the aerial systems currently in development.

“Think of it as going on offensive with unmanned,” Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, said.

The task force will focus on testing new tech and integrating systems, and is intended to play a key role in the International Maritime Exercise (IMX) scheduled for early 2022. IMX is a military exercise that has regularly taken place since 2012, which the Naval Forces Central Command conducts alongside other nations.


The Navy has several offices working on unmanned vessels that have launched successful tests, and in March unveiled a new unmanned campaign.

Its strategy focuses on enabling maritime operations with manned and unmanned systems working along side each other. The plan received mixed reactions in Congress, which ultimately will need to fund the unmanned platforms the Navy plans to request.

One of the integration problems the task force will look at is building trust between operators and machines.

“It is really about building trust between the human and the machine,” Captain Michael Brasseur, the commodore for Task Force 59, said on the call with reporters.

Task Force 59 will be stood up in Central Command as it’s very “maritime centric,” Cooper said. The area also present a range a challenges to test tech against, including rough seas, hostile adversaries and unpredictable weather.


“The concept here is if you can operate here you can probably operate in other areas,” Cooper added.

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