The US Navy has confirmed deployment of a high-altitude Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or drone which can keep track of Iranian military moves and monitor ships passing through the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
The Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS-D) drone, developed by Northrop Grumman, can beam ‘‘still videos’’ from a height of 60,000 feet. The black and white images are sent to a ground station in Maryland, US, and re-sent to 5th Fleet vessels in the region within minutes.
‘‘BAMS-D has significantly improved maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in the region by providing persistent monitoring and awareness. The drone has been working in tandem with manned P-3 and EP-3 reconnaissance aircraft,’’ said Lieutenant Rebecca Rebarich, the US Navy 5th Fleet spokesperson from Bahrain in reply to questions from Khaleej Times.
The drone project is part of an $11 billion program envisaged by the Pentagon. ‘‘BAMS-D has an advertised/unclassified endurance of 35 hours,’’ according to the spokesperson, who said the US Navy is maintaining a constant ‘‘state of high vigilance’’ in order to ensure the continued, safe flow of maritime traffic in waterways critical to global commerce.
According to the US Energy Department, almost 17 million barrels a day, or about a fifth of oil traded globally, transited the waterway in 2011.
‘‘We continue to monitor and adjust our presence in the area to fulfill the requirements of maritime security operations, as well as to enable engagements and cooperation with our regional and coalition partners,’’ said Lieutenant Rebarich.
When asked if the Navy had increased fleet strength in the region, the spokesperson said: ‘‘US 5th Fleet operations remain normal, and our regularly scheduled movements are in accordance with our longstanding commitments to the security and stability of the region an in support of ongoing operations. US 5th Fleet is committed to protecting maritime freedoms that are the basis for global prosperity — this is one of the main reasons our military forces operate in the region.’’
A Bloomberg report last week said the US Navy by 2019 wants to base BAMS drones in five locations, including in the Pacific region, for ‘‘worldwide coverage’’.
Bloomberg quoted Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert, who spoke of the capabilities of the high-altitude UAV in the region. ‘‘You get a look at the entire Hormuz swathe,” Greenert said. “It’s got persistence; it’s got nice resolution and clarity. It’s durable and operating very reliably.”
Norththrop on its website said BAMS missions include ‘‘maritime surveillance, collection of enemy order of battle information, battle damage assessment, port surveillance, communication relay, and support of the following missions - maritime interdiction, surface warfare, battlespace management, and targeting for maritime and littoral strike missions’’.
The company which was awarded a contract for the program in 2008 will build three more advanced models. Bloomberg reported that the US Navy will seek permission from the Pentagon in 2013 to begin building the remaining 65 drones.
Source: Khaleej Times; Bloomberg