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James Stavridis

The Navy Gets Its Drone Fleet Into the Water

Will proving the capabilities of unmanned systems in the Gulf spur the Pentagon to budget more for smaller, nimbler weapons?

Droning on.

Droning on.

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

U.S. Navy recently stood up a seagoing task force that it hopes will sail into not just the Arabian Gulf but also the future. The question is whether the service, and the Pentagon as a whole, can put its focus and money into the weapons of tomorrow and not those of the past.

Instead of the traditional collection of destroyers and cruisers, Task Force 59 is outfitted with unmanned vehicles powered by artificial intelligence. It is commanded by Captain Michael “Brasso” Brasseur, whom I met in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks in the Pentagon, which still reeked of smoke and jet fuel. I was a recently promoted rear admiral, in charge of a small group of officers chosen to create new ways of thinking about how to use marine forces in what we would come to call “the global war on terror.”