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Blue Fin IBring the cost and the dimensions of unmanned naval systems, increase the scope of their autonomous operation, and bring down to the bare minimum the number of human operators. This is the formula defense establishment officials, naval officers, academicians and defense company executives all seem to agree on, when it comes to the future of unmanned marine vessels. This prevailing opinion was recently voiced at the annual conference on marine robotics, held under the auspices of Haifa University’s Leon H. Charney School of Marine Sciences and the Israeli chapter of AUVSI, the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems.

Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs) and Unmanned Underwater Vessels (UUVs) have been around not only in Israel but also worldwide for quite some time now, engaged in many and varied missions from ongoing security to securing oil and gas reservoirs and much more. Unmanned marine vessels already account for a large and growing share of planning in the framework of design, development and production by defense contractors. All the lecturers at the conference referred to the variety of missions unmanned naval vessels carry out, and discussed their myriad military, security, HLS and civilian applications.

Major General (res) Prof. Itzhak Ben Israel, former head of Israel’s Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure (Hebrew acronym: MAFAT): “unmanned vessels are designed to minimize risks, save on human lives and gather intelligence. The world’s first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was Noah’s pigeon, sent forth from the ark. This pigeon gathered intelligence and returned to base safely.”

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Colonel Yaron Ben Simon, head of vessels division at the Israeli Navy: “Both USVs and UUVs take part in the underwater warfare against submarines, in surface warfare, in securing ports and shores, in intelligence gathering missions, in mine sweeping and special ops.”

Dr. Morel Gruper of Haifa University: “autonomous unmanned submarines will be put into action in order to monitor natural phenomena such as hurricanes, oil spillages in bays and harbors, working in oil and gas fields, underwater surveys, mine sweeping, SIGINT (Signals Intelligence), EW (Electronic Warfare), anti-submarine warfare, stealth deployment of various charges, and also marine archeology, marine biology and so on.”

Eyal Shahrabani, IAI: “USVs will carry out search and destroy missions in rough seas and will become an integral part of the cooperation between manned and unmanned systems.”

Dr. Noam Brook, RAFAEL: “USVs have both military and paramilitary applications, such as opening up routes for civilian shipping and navy vessels, counter mining operations, ongoing security, counter terror and search and rescue missions.”

Ofer Ben Dov, Elbit Systems: “Nowadays, you do not go to war without unmanned aerial systems, and this will also be the case with USVs, which will fight against enemy submarines, trace underwater mines, as well as protect shores and oil and gas fields.”