Aerospace and defence company Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) won the Product Launches award at the 2023 Naval Technology Excellence Awards standing out as the overall category winner, for the launch of its groundbreaking BlueWhale autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), a significant innovation in the realm of underwater intelligence-gathering.

The BlueWhale represents a pioneering achievement for the Israeli defence sector, being the first uncrewed submarine developed by the nation. The large AUV is designed with a sophisticated suite of sensors, including radar, electro-optical systems, and dedicated sonars, which enable it to detect both manned and unmanned submarines and to meticulously map naval mines on the seabed.

IAI’s commitment to ensuring the safe operation of the BlueWhale is evident in its comprehensive sensor suite, which facilitates secure underwater transit and near-surface manoeuvres.

The BlueWhale has been rigorously tested, with thousands of hours of submerged and autonomous operation to its credit. It is capable of executing many of the tasks traditionally associated with crewed submarines, such as covert intelligence-gathering, but with significantly reduced costs and maintenance requirements. Notably, these operations can be conducted without the need for onboard personnel.

IAI’s maritime capabilities are further enhanced by the BlueWhale, which boasts a telescopic mast for radar and electro-optical systems, akin to a manned submarine’s periscope. The AUV is also equipped with a towed sonar array and flank array sonar, enabling precise detection of underwater targets. Additionally, its synthetic aperture sonar is adept at identifying naval mines on the seabed, with the capability to relay data in real-time to command posts globally via satellite communications.

Yoav Tourgeman, IAI VP and CEO of ELTA, remarked on the BlueWhale’s integration into IAI’s portfolio of unmanned platforms, highlighting it as a force-multiplier for submarine fleets. The advanced engineering proficiencies of IAI’s Elta Group have culminated in the world’s first mature development and production of an autonomous underwater system with such a broad operational scope.

The BlueWhale’s development has led to several international patents and, following successful testing, it stands as a promising asset for covert intelligence operations. It marks a significant advancement in unmanned submarine technology.

IAI’s recognition at the Excellence Awards is a testament to its leadership in autonomous maritime technology and its commitment to enhancing naval capabilities through innovation. The BlueWhale AUV is not only a product launch success but also a strategic asset poised to redefine undersea warfare and intelligence-gathering for the future.

Company Profile

Headquartered in Israel, IAI delivers cutting-edge solutions to national defence and security challenges. With a legacy of combat-proven experience, IAI serves as a prime contractor, subcontractor, and collaborative team member, executing large turnkey projects across aerospace, land, sea, cyber, and multi-domain applications. Their extensive portfolio encompasses air and missile defence, unmanned aerial systems, precision-guided weapons, and a suite of advanced C5ISR solutions, demonstrating their commitment to providing robust and sophisticated defence capabilities.

IAI is segmented into four key groups. ELTA Systems, the electronic systems powerhouse, provides a comprehensive array of solutions for C5ISR, airborne early warning and control (AEW&C), and electronic surveillance, underpinned by advanced artificial intelligence (AI), cyber, and robotics technologies.

The Systems Missiles & Space Group is the hub for missile systems and space operations, managing air and missile defence, naval systems, and satellite initiatives. The Military Aircraft Group leverages decades of unmanned aerial system (UAS) innovation, offering state-of-the-art aerial solutions, while the Aviation Group encompasses the full lifecycle of manned and unmanned aircraft, from design and certification to maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services.

These groups operate in concert, supported by IAI’s aerospace engineering excellence centre, to deliver integrated and comprehensive solutions across all domains, ensuring clients receive the most advanced and reliable systems tailored to their unique requirements.

Contact details

Ben Gurion International Airport,

Lod, Tel Aviv, 70100