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Bet on “blue whales”: Italy and Israel will create large unmanned underwater vehicles for the military

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Apr11,2024

Bet on "blue whales": Italy and Israel will create large unmanned underwater vehicles for the military

The Italian Ministry of Defense has submitted a request for approval to the country's parliament programs to create a new long-range autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) for reconnaissance, surveillance (ISR) and anti-submarine warfare (ASW).

According to accompanying documents submitted to parliament, the unmanned submarine construction program focuses on international cooperation between Italy and Israel on the drone's autonomous capabilities. The result is the development of the “Italian-Israeli Blue Whale” (IIBW) based on the BlueWhale (Blue Whale — in Ukrainian) platform (ELI-3325) by the Israeli company Elta Systems with the integration of payloads and systems developed by Italian industry, ArmiyaInform reports.

Together with the publication of the plan of the Ministry of Defense Italy for 2023-2025, submitted for approval to the country's parliament, details of the development of a long-range unmanned submarine for the military have appeared. This is reported by the site Naval News.

The unmanned submarine will perform tasks of surveillance, data collection in areas of direct national strategic interest, maritime defense, control of underwater infrastructures such as pipelines, cables and offshore platforms.

International cooperation is based on a memorandum of cooperation signed in February 2022, which defines the limits of industrial cooperation between the companies involved. The document was signed by Elta Systems and the Italian companies Elettronica, FAAM, CABI Cattaneo, BATS Italia and ICS Technologies.

According to information provided to parliament, CABI Cattaneo will develop the vehicle's integration with surface and underwater platforms, FAAM will provide the lithium-ion battery pack and Elettronica is expected to provide the electronic warfare intelligence systems for the boat. ICS Technologies will provide the integration of the sonar set, and BATS Italia — logistic support.

The collaboration refers to joint research and development work to develop a drone with equal contributions from Israeli and Italian companies. The documents also state that there are currently no purely national Italian solutions to meet the requirements of the Italian Navy. The total estimated cost of the program is €254.3 million, of which €6 million has already been allocated for the first two years of the program with a total duration of 13 years.

The Israeli BlueWhale prototype has a length of 10.9 m, a diameter of 1.12 m and a weight of 5.5 tons. It can operate at a maximum depth of 300 m, the average speed of movement is small and is 2-3 knots, and the autonomy of swimming is 30 days. The payload is of a modular type and consists of a number of electroacoustic, electrooptical and radar sensors (located on the lifting mast) and communication systems.

When conducting combat operations against underwater objects, the drone operates in bistatic mode ( receiver and transmitter spaced apart) using a towed linear passive transmitter.

According to the documents, the General Staff of the Italian Navy has requested the purchase of new long-range automatic underwater platforms with enhanced capabilities in terms of modularity, endurance and versatility. The package of means required by the ministry consists of three autonomous underwater vehicles of large displacement, a remote command station for them, systems and payloads on board, as well as training for operators and technical personnel.

Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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