Italy Suspends Purchase of Israeli Blue Whale Undersea Drones

Italy has halted its plans to purchase three Blue Whale undersea drones from Israeli firm Elta Systems, a decision previously scheduled for parliamentary review.

The drones, intended for intelligence, anti-submarine warfare, and mine countermeasures, were part of a €254 million procurement plan spanning from 2023 to 2035. The decision to withdraw the program came unexpectedly before the parliamentary defense committees could vote on it.

The Italian government had considered developing a domestic version of these Large Displacement Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (LDAUV) in collaboration with local firms such as Gruppo ELT and Cabi Cattaneo. This initiative is aimed at enhancing national technological capabilities and reducing reliance on foreign technology.

Sources suggest the cancellation may also be influenced by political sensitivities linked to Israel’s military activities in Gaza and resultant pressures from Western allies. Additionally, some criticisms were levied against the drones’ performance, including issues with acoustic signals and maneuverability.

The decision coincided with discussions held in Rome on April 8 between Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto and Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz, indicating high-level engagements on the matter.

Simultaneously, Italy is enhancing its sub-sea warfare capabilities by establishing a new center in La Spezia, Northern Italy.