Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) announced this weekend the first large Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV), called BlueWhale. According to IAI announcement, the submarine has successfully 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 its missions for periods of several weeks, without the need for operators on board.
“For the first time in the world, IAI’s Elta managed to bring to maturity the development and production of an autonomous underwater system able to perform a wide range of tasks,” said IAI VP and ELTA’s CEO, Yoav Tourgeman. The 5.5 tons Electric UAV BlueWhale (code named ELI-3325) reaches speeds of up to 7 knots and can stay for up to 30 days on sea. Payload sensors and communications options include RADAR, EO/IR, SIGINT, sonars, magnetic sensors and SATCOM.
The 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. Mine detection is performed using a dedicated synthetic aperture sonar, attached to the sides of the vessel. IAI also revealed that the development of the system brought to a number of international registered patents.