Israel Aerospace Industries unveils BlueWhale unmanned spy submarine

Defense firm’s first foray into autonomous underwater vehicles uses sonar to gather intelligence and detect mines, with enough power to submerge for up to 4 weeks

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

An undated handout photo of the autonomous unmanned BlueWhale submarine. (Israel Aerospace Industries)
An undated handout photo of the autonomous unmanned BlueWhale submarine. (Israel Aerospace Industries)

The state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries revealed Thursday that it has been developing its first large autonomous underwater vehicle, dubbed BlueWhale, which can gather covert intelligence and detect enemy threats.

According to IAI, the unmanned submarine has already conducted thousands of hours of submerged and autonomous operations. BlueWhale appears to be a commercialized version of the Caesaron autonomous underwater vehicle, which was developed for the Israeli Navy and revealed by the Defense Ministry in 2017.

The firm said BlueWhale uses radar and electro-optical systems to detect sea and coastal targets.

It is also equipped with sonar capabilities to gather intelligence, detect manned and unmanned submarines, and map out naval mines.

Intelligence is then relayed in real time to a designated command center via a dedicated broadband-secured satellite channel.

Electrical power from the submarine’s battery bank can sustain continuous operation for two to four weeks, IAI said, adding that it can be transported in a 40-foot shipping container.

BlueWhale joins a swiftly growing array of unmanned underwater vehicles developed over the last several years as navies around the world scramble to upgrade their naval defense technologies and protect offshore assets, such as undersea pipelines.

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