Italy puts brakes on purchase of Blue Whale underwater drones from Israel

By Mario Blokken

The decision by Italy's defence ministry to halt plans to purchase Blue Whale undersea drones derived from an Israeli firm's platform reflects a complex interplay of factors. Despite initial intentions to procure three BlueWhale drones from ELTA Systems, concerns over technological self-sufficiency and political sensitivities have led to the abrupt suspension of the program.


The proposed purchase, listed in last year’s defence budget, aimed to equip Italy with advanced intelligence gathering, anti-submarine warfare, and mine countermeasures capabilities. However, doubts regarding the extent of Italian industry involvement and political apprehensions over buying arms from Israel have prompted a reevaluation of the procurement plan.


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Italy’s evolving stance in sub-sea warfare, evident in initiatives like the new center at La Spezia, highlights the nation’s commitment to enhancing its defence capabilities through domestic innovation and collaboration with industry and academia. While Italy’s right-wing government maintains pro-Israel sentiments, opposition voices within parliament have expressed reservations, particularly in light of recent events in Gaza. This divergence of opinion, coupled with concerns over the performance and cost-effectiveness of the Blue Whale platform, has contributed to the decision to postpone the purchase.



The outcome highlights the intricacies involved in defence procurement decisions, where strategic, technological, and political considerations intersect. As Italy navigates these complexities, the episode shows the importance of balancing national security imperatives with broader geopolitical sensitivities.


About the author:

Mario Blokken is Director of the Permanent Secretariat of the Finabel – European Army Interoperability Centre.


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