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IAI unveils BlueWhale unmanned submarine

IAI has developed its first unmanned mini submarine, named BlueWhale. (IAI)

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has unveiled its first unmanned mini submarine, named BlueWhale.

Developed by IAI's subsidiary Elta Systems, the modular, electric-propelled large autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) is designed for covert intelligence-gathering operations above the sea surface, as well as anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and minehunting missions.

According to IAI, BlueWhale has already undergone thousands of hours of submerged and autonomous operations in conditions up to Sea State 5, including intelligence-gathering for both maritime and coastal targets, acoustic intelligence-gathering, and identifying the presence of naval mines. The company claims the platform can perform a significant portion of the operations of a manned submarine, for periods of several weeks, at minimal cost and maintenance.

Speaking at SAE Media Group's Uncrewed Maritime Systems Technology 2023 (UMST 2023) conference on 3 May, Udi Erell, IAI naval specialist, land and naval systems division, said BlueWhale could best be described as a ‘submarine force multiplier'.

“I think we're quite far away from replacing manned submarines, I'll be the last one to suggest it,” he said. “But there's no navy in the world that has the number of submarines it would like to have. And since our system can do a lot of the jobs that submarines do this, that's why we call it a submarine force multiplier. In this case, what we're saying is, it's best if it works alongside manned submarines [to complement rather than replace them].”

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