Israel’s state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has presented the BlueWhale Large Autonomous Underwater Vehicle for the first time.
This boat has already undergone thousands of autonomous operation hours, including intelligence-gathering for both maritime and coastal targets, acoustic intelligence, and identifying the presence of naval mines. The autonomous submarine can perform a significant portion of the operations of a manned submarine, for periods of several weeks, at minimal cost and maintenance, without the need for operators on board.
Like manned submarines, BlueWhale performs covert intelligence-gathering above the sea surface, can detect submarines, underwater targets and gather acoustic intelligence, and also search for and detect naval mines on the seabed.
BlueWhale is equipped with a telescopic mast, like the periscope of a manned submarine, several meters high, on which are mounted radar and electro-optical systems for detecting sea and coastal targets. By using a satellite communications antenna on the mast, the gathered data can be transferred in real-time to command posts, anywhere in the world, at sea or on land. Submarine detection and acoustic intelligence-gathering data is enabled using a sonar, several tens of meters long, towed by the BlueWhale, and by flank array sonar with receiver arrays attached to both sides of the platform.
In parallel, mine detection is performed using a dedicated synthetic aperture sonar, attached to the sides of the vessel. The BlueWhale has a sensor suite to help ensure its safe transit underwater or near the surface. In recent years, a number of international patents have been registered regarding development of the system.
IAI VP and ELTA's CEO, Yoav Tourgeman: “IAI’s Elta Group has for the first time in the world managed to bring to maturity the development and production of an autonomous underwater system able to perform a wide range of tasks. BlueWhale is a significant member of IAI’s family of maritime products, which include solutions for use in Economic Exclusion Zones, tools for managing autonomous vessels, and their integration in monitoring the maritime arena.”