Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) last week revealed its new BlueWhale unmanned autonomous submarine geared for intelligence-gathering operations.

The company said the vehicle has conducted thousands of hours of submerged and autonomous operations and it can be used for purposes ranging from detecting submarines to gathering “acoustic intelligence.”

Israel Aerospace Industries’ (IAI) new autonomous unmanned BlueWhale submarine, unveiled in May 2023. (Photo: IAI)
Israel Aerospace Industries’ (IAI) new autonomous unmanned BlueWhale submarine, unveiled in May 2023. (Photo: IAI)

The BlueWhale includes a several meter-tall telescopic mast that mounts radar and electro-optical systems to sense sea and coastal targets while also equipped with sonars to detect submarines and map mines on the seabed

The sonars consist of a towed sonar “several tens of meters long” and flank array sonar with receiver arrays attached to either side of the BlueWhale.

Separately, it is capable of mine detection by dedicated synthetic aperture sonars attached to the sides of the submarine.

The vehicle has a satellite communications antenna on the mast as well to help transmit data “in real-time to command posts, anywhere in the world, at sea or on land,” IAI said.

The company said it also includes a “special sensor suite” that ensures safe transit of the vehicle and that “In recent years, a number of international patents have been registered regarding development of the system.”

IAI claimed this submersible “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.”

According to a company fact sheet, the BlueWhale is almost 36-feet long, has a diameter of under four-feet, weighs 5.5 tons, can travel at 2-3 knots or up to a maximum of seven knots when submerged, has a battery bank that can sustain continuous operation for two to four weeks and it transportable inside a 40-foot shipping container. 

“BlueWhale joins the family of land, sea, and space-based unmanned platforms, developed by IAI, and represents a force-multiplier for submarine fleets,” Yoav Tourgeman, IAI vice president and CEO of subsidiary ELTA, said in a statement.

“Based on its advanced engineering capabilities 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,” he added.