IMX 2022 is an 18-day biennial naval training event led by U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. It combines with exercise Cutlass Express (CE) led by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa in East African coastal regions and the West Indian Ocean.
The combined training includes 9,000 personnel and up to 50 ships from more than 60 partner nations and international organizations operating across the Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, Gulf of Oman and off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean.
IMX 2022 is not only the largest multinational naval exercise in the Middle East but also the largest unmanned maritime exercise in the world with more than 80 unmanned systems from 10 nations participating. Task Force X is the unmanned Task Force which leads the unmanned systems and works across the other task force commanders through a series of 14 plans serial, also known as training scenarios.
In a media phone roundtable on February 2, 2022, US Navy officials responded to Naval News’ inquiries about the operational challenges of networking so many unmanned systems from different nations.
Naval News: There are ten partner nations who are bringing their own unmanned systems. Does this bring some additional challenges in terms of data sharing and control during IMX 2022?
Cmdr. Tom McAndrew, deputy commodore of Task Force 59: While I can’t speak on behalf of any other countries out there, I can say that because of the nature of this exercise, being unclassified, it really helps us to enhance the data sharing and some of the other additional challenges that might exist if we were operating.
Naval News: Are all those unmanned systems, Americans or allied are they all controlled from unique and centralize command and control node?
Cmdr. Tom McAndrew: I can’t go into the specifics for operational security reasons but I can say we do have several MOCs, Maritime Operational Centers. We’ve got our robotics operations center as well as MOCs that are underway. So one of the key things we’ve looked at is trying to ensure that these systems are interoperable and share data at scale as we move forward. So in some cases, they’re controlled locally and in other cases. It’s very distributed.
More than 80 unmanned systems are taking part in the IMX 2022 exercise. The unmanned assets from the U.S. Navy include:
Devil Ray T-38:
An unmanned surface vessel designed for sailing at speeds greater than 80 knots and executing high speed turns of up to 6Gs. The T-38 Devil Ray can be used as an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platform for staging and deploying other unmanned vehicles and weapons.
A hybrid surface and undersea system capable of operating for up to three months surfaced or eight days submerged. The system and payload batteries are recharged by solar panels that are outfitted on the sail. The platform is capable of autonomous insertion, recovering, recharging, and redeploying REMUS unmanned undersea vehicles.
A one-way, mortar-fired unmanned aerial vehicle can be equipped with an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) camera for real-time full-motion video or equipped with an explosive payload for kinetic fires.
A multi-role unmanned surface vessel capable of deploying from land, a crewed ship, or a larger unmanned vessel. Its modular design allows for rapidly tailoring sensor packages to meet specific operational requirements.
A wave-powered marine robot that can deliver data from above and below water.
Saildrone is a high-endurance, solar, and hydro-powered ISR unmanned surface vessel propelled by wind and capable of remaining on station for up to 12 months. Its sensor packages include meteorological instruments, bottom scanning sonar, AIS detection, and a 360-ISR camera.
GHOST-4 is a vertical takeoff and landing UAV designed for ISR missions. GHOST 4 is equipped with an ISR camera that provides up to 85 minutes of controlled real-time video.
Remus-300 is a two-person portable UUV designed for mine countermeasures, search and recıvery, rapid environmental assessment, hydrographic survey, renewables, marine archaeology, offshore oil and gas, anti-submarine warfare, and ISR.