The Devil Ray in the Eager Lion 2022 Exercise

By Robbin Laird

The photo dated September 10, 2022 shows the Devil Ray T-38 and Saildrone Explorer operating in the Gulf of Aqaba, Sept. 10, during Eager Lion 2022. Eager Lion is an exercise between the U.S., Jordan & 28 partner nations focused on enhancing military cooperation & interoperability.

Recently, Iran temporarily capture a Saildrone Explorer  in the Red Sea. It would make sense to operate it with the Devil Ray which can provide some protection against adversaries trying to seize the saildrone.

But the U.S. Navy to recapture the Iranian=seized saildrone had to deploy manned assets to recover the UAS.

According to the U.S. Navy: “While transiting international waters around 11 p.m. (local time), Aug. 29, U.S. 5th Fleet observed IRGCN support ship Shahid Baziar towing a Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessel (USV) in an attempt to detain it.

“U.S. Navy patrol coastal ship USS Thunderbolt (PC 12) was operating nearby and immediately responded. U.S. 5th Fleet also launched an MH-60S Sea Hawk from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26, based in Bahrain,” 5th Fleet said in an Aug. 30 statement about the first incident.”

It makes sense to find better ways to defense a UAS such as the saildrone by working with a wolfpack UAS  “task force” such as the Devil Ray or Mantas.

In a September 4, 2022 press release this how U.S. Central Command described Exercise Eager Lion 22:

The United States, Jordan, and 28 partner nations opened the two-week Exercise Eager Lion today in Jordan. Eager Lion, held September 4-15, 2022, represents one of the largest military exercises in the region, and is designed to exchange military expertise and improve interoperability among partner nations.

“Eager Lion is a multifaceted event that demonstrates our commitment to partnerships and responsive joint forces operating in complex environments that offer no easy victories or quick wins,” said Maj. Gen. Steven J. deMilliano, Director of Exercises and Training Directorate, United States Central Command. “More broadly, partnerships enable militaries to grow capabilities and quickly respond to demanding crisis situations.”

Exercise Eager Lion is considered the capstone event of the broader U.S. military relationship with the Jordanian Armed Forces, one of U.S. Central Command’s strongest and most reliable partners in the region leading the way for security and stability using conventional and unconventional scenarios to activate a combined joint task force, which will address simulated threats. The exercise underscores the United States’ commitment to partners in the Middle East and joint defense against hybrid threats by state and non-state actors. As we face rising aggressive actions by malign forces around the world, these partnerships enable us to meet new and continuing threats together.

This 10th iteration of Eager Lion will include a long-range bomber mission, cyber threats from fictitious adversaries, interagency communication and coordination, counterterrorism skills development, integrated air and missile defense synchronization, advancing proficiencies for maritime and border security, disaster response, and humanitarian aid. This year’s scenario will test interoperability addressing regional challenges across air, land, sea and cyber domains. The exercise construct will consist of a field training exercise with a combined-arms live-fire exercise, command post exercise, and a senior leader seminar to facilitate information sharing from the tactical to the strategic levels.

Approximately 1,700 U.S. service members, 2,200 Jordanian Armed Forces, and 591 coalition personnel from 28 other partner nations are participating or observing the multilateral military training exercise, which was scheduled for 2021, but postponed due to the COVID 19 pandemic.