Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has unveiled its BlueWhale large Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV), marking the first time an Israeli-developed uncrewed submarine has been made.

The BlueWhale has radar, electro-optical systems, and dedicated sonars to detect manned and unmanned submarines and map mines on the seabed. The BlueWhale has a sensor suite to help ensure its safe transit underwater or near the surface.

According to GlobalData’s “The Global Naval Radar Market 2019-2029” report, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has the highest market in the Middle Eastern naval radar market. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is anticipated to account for a revenue share of $237.5m during 2019-2029.

The BlueWhale has undergone thousands of hours of submerged and autonomous operation. It can perform a significant portion of the functions of a crewed submarine, including covert intelligence-gathering above the sea surface, at a minimal cost and maintenance, without the need for operators on board.

The BlueWhale is an addition to IAI’s maritime capabilities. The system is equipped with a telescopic mast, similar to the periscope of a manned submarine, several meters high, which is used to mount the radar and electro-optical systems for detecting sea and coastal targets.

In addition to its radar and electro-optical systems, the BlueWhale is also equipped with a sonar, several tens of meters long, towed by the vessel to enable submarine detection and acoustic intelligence-gathering. The system also has a flank array sonar with receiver arrays attached to both sides of the platform, allowing it to detect underwater targets with great accuracy.

The BlueWhale is equipped with a dedicated synthetic aperture sonar attached to the vessel’s sides and is used to detect naval mines on the seabed. The gathered data can be transferred in real-time to command posts anywhere in the world, at sea or on land, using a satellite communications antenna on the mast.

IAI VP and ELTA’s CEO Yoav Tourgeman said: “BlueWhale joins the family of land, sea, and space-based unmanned platforms, developed by IAI, and represents a force-multiplier for submarine fleets. 

Based on its advanced engineering capabilities, IAI’s Elta Group has, for the first time in the world, brought to maturity the development and production of an autonomous underwater system able to perform a wide range of tasks.”

In recent years, several international patents have been registered regarding the development of BlueWhale. The system’s successful testing and extensive capabilities make it a promising solution for covert intelligence-gathering operations and a significant milestone in developing unmanned submarine technology.

According to GlobalData’s “The Global Undersea Warfare Systems Market 2018-2028” report, the major programs in the segment include China’s procurement of unmanned systems such as the Robofish and Haiyan, India’s procurement of AUV-150, and High Endurance Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (HEAUV), Taiwan’s procurement of six mine-hunting ships, and the US investment in Autonomous Undersea Vehicles, Dry Combat Submersibles (DCS), and Smart and Networking Underwater Robots.