As the Navy continues to experiment with and expand upon its burgeoning drone fleet in the Middle Eastern patrolled by U.S. 5th Fleet, an unmanned surface ship fired missiles for the first time there during an exercise last month.

The firing of a so-called “Lethal Missile Aerial Missile System” from a MARTAC T38 Devil Ray drone came during the Digital Talon exercise in the waters around the Arabian Peninsula on Oct. 23, according to the Navy.

The exercise was overseen by Task Force 59, a Navy unit dedicated to unmanned and artificial intelligence technologies.

During the event, the drones teamed up with manned vessels to identify simulated enemy boats and fired missiles that destroyed the targets, according to the Navy.

While the Devil Ray’s missile firing marked a milestone, a human operator ashore still made the call to engage.

The Middle East has become a test bed for the Navy’s drone systems in recent years, where relatively calm and steady waters have provided an ideal environment for such concepts.

Navy brass said earlier this year that they are looking to deploy a manned-unmanned hybrid fleet in the next decade.

Before the Digital Talon exercise, Navy underwater, surface and aerial drones achieved another milestone in September, when they helped track Iranian navy and Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps ships over several days in and around the Strait of Hormuz, the Navy said.

Geoff is the editor of Navy Times, but he still loves writing stories. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at

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