Home » Weapons » SOCOM Develops Dry Submersible Mini-Sub for SEALs

SOCOM Develops Dry Submersible Mini-Sub for SEALs

by Kris Osborn on January 30, 2014

SEALs-in-LibyaU.S. Special Operations Command and sub-maker Electric Boat have partnered up to develop a dry submersible mini-submarine designed to deliver Navy SEALs into hostile, high-threat areas beneath the surface of the ocean.

The 31-foot long underwater vehicle, called the User Operational Evaluation System 3, can carry as many as six people. It is currently being tested and developed through a three-year, $44 million contract with General Dynamics Electric Boat.

The idea with the dry submersible is to minimize risk and fatigue for special operations forces, such as SEALs, who are adept at quietly swimming into hostile areas to complete high-risk missions.

“Combat submersibles are used for shallow water infiltration and exfiltration of special operations forces, reconnaissance, resupply, and other missions in high threat, non-permissive environments,” Capt. Kevin Aandahl, SOCOM spokesman told Military​.com.

The pressure hull and motor of the UOES 3 have already been built and are slated for key tests this coming June, Electric Boat officials said.  Engineering plans call for the inclusion of a standard suite of submersible navigation systems, gyroscopes, sonar and obstacle avoidance technology, said Franz Edson, director, mission systems and business development, General Dynamics Electric Boat.

“Right now, when we deploy SEALs they typically go in what’s called a wet boat – so they are in the ocean breathing through scuba gear. What the SEALs really want is something where they can get the guys to their objective dry, so they don’t have to endure this harsh water environment,” said Edson.

While SEALs are known for their training and long-distance swimming abilities, a dry submersible could lessen mission fatigue and reduce their exposure to harsh elements such as cold or icy water. Therefore, the UOES 3 would seem to be of particular value in cold or stormy waters given that it would protect them from the elements, one analyst said.

“Let’s not kid ourselves. These are well trained SEALs, but operating in choppy waters or freezing waters is a dicey proposition. You have got to give these guys enormous credit for being as brave as they are.  You don’t want them to be out there and not be able to survive,” said Daniel Goure, vice president of the Lexington Institute, a Va.-based think tank.

This isn’t the first time the Pentagon has tried to build SEALs a similar vehicle. Called the Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS), the submersible was developed and then cancelled in 2006. The ASDS was planned to be launched from a submarine.

It is not yet clear whether the 19-ton dry submersible will be launched from a submarine or from a surface ship, however those questions are now being explored, SOCOM and Electric Boat officials said.

The dry submersible will undergo developmental testing and early operational assessment through fiscal year 2015, Aandahl said.

The UOES 3 is currently being built to commercial specifications through a partnership between General Dynamics Electric Boat and an Italian firm called Giunio Santi Engineering, or GSE, Edson explained.  The idea behind using commercial specifications is to leverage the best and most cutting-edge existing technology while working to keep costs lower, he said.

Some of the navigational technology includes a sonar Doppler velocity log which bounces a signal off the bottom of the ocean to help provide essential mission-relevant location information, Edson added.

“After bouncing off the bottom, a signal comes back to an array which tells you how far you are moving,” he said.

Another analyst said such a technology could bring an advantage to the SEALs, who may be anticipating a greater emphasis upon maritime missions as land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down and end.

“It is sensible that they would want to deploy in the stealthiest way available. It is something that fits with the traditional missions of the SEALs,” said Benjamin Friedman, research fellow in homeland defense and security studies, Cato Institute, a Washington-based D.C. think tank.

SEAL submersible

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{ 74 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicky January 30, 2014 at 4:58 pm

What SOCOM should get it an SSK submarine with littoral capability. That way they can have a littoral SSK for special operations.

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anom1 January 31, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Maybe we could just launch them out specops pedo tubes?

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blight_ January 31, 2014 at 6:58 pm

SSK's are probably still too big. That said, an actual independently capable sub might might make them drivers instead of fighters.

Something like the Andrasta would be useful for the regular navy; but an even smaller submarine for SEAL delivery would be greatly appreciated.

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ziv January 30, 2014 at 5:11 pm

Do we really need to know about this sort of development? It seems like the program is small enough that it could remain in the black part of the budget.

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Dan Taylor January 31, 2014 at 8:16 pm

Why? It's just a mini-sub, no secret technology, and seen in every James Bond movie since the 60s.

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Tad February 1, 2014 at 12:50 pm

I always assumed that groups like the SEALS would have subs like this all along. Heck, I'm sure James Bond had one of these several decades ago! :-)

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Tiger February 1, 2014 at 6:49 pm

Try WW-2…. Remember the subs at Pearl Harbor? The RN's X-craft attack on Tirpitz?

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sailor12 February 6, 2014 at 10:52 am

Then some moron in DC will complain about transparency. The american people don't need to know everything special ops does.

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GWW February 7, 2014 at 11:51 am

Concur.

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Drew February 14, 2014 at 5:59 pm

What black budget? There's no such thing

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anonymous January 30, 2014 at 5:14 pm

Now I want to take the front sight of my iron-sighted M4 so I can be like the guys in this picture.

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anonymous January 30, 2014 at 5:14 pm

s/of/off/

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benny January 31, 2014 at 12:15 pm

it's a photoshopped picture.

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BigDaddy57 January 31, 2014 at 9:49 pm

That's what I am doing so I can put a Troy rail on it.

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Steven February 1, 2014 at 6:32 pm

what the heck …
hmmm probably a hip shooter (you don't aim you just raise it an shoot)
I mean seals are so good with weapons they don't need to aim in order to shoot

now seriously , why in the world would they take the front part out ?

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ThisIsMyHandle February 2, 2014 at 10:13 pm

They're dummy guns, as delineated by the yellow tape. Training purposes only.

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john January 30, 2014 at 6:50 pm

Am surprised we still can't build a mini sub for our brave SEALS. Hell the Japs built hundreds of them in WW2.

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Kim Scholer January 31, 2014 at 3:08 pm

But they didn't work very well, nor did the Germans' ones.

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Tiger February 1, 2014 at 6:51 pm

Ask the drug runners. They seem be the leader in small sub making today……

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Jeff M January 30, 2014 at 7:04 pm

That picture of it at the bottom is pretty amazing, gonna put pixar out of business with that.

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hibeam January 30, 2014 at 7:16 pm

Total waste of money. Use drones to pound our adversaries into dust. Our recent experiences in Somalia come to mind. The seals chased back into the sea. The drones came back later to get the job done. Drones drones and more drones. That's what we need. Especially along the Mexican border.

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Argospete January 31, 2014 at 5:25 am

Stupid.

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Tiger February 1, 2014 at 6:54 pm

Dim bulb, not everything can be done from the air… The Mexican border? What you need is to do is, build the damn fence.

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jamesb January 30, 2014 at 8:19 pm

How are these guys suppose to see?

The thing pictured doesn't have any window's?

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Adrian January 31, 2014 at 12:50 am

How many subs you know have windows? Sonar…

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Argospete January 31, 2014 at 5:27 am

The Yellow Submarine of course…. Yeah!

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blight_ January 31, 2014 at 9:45 am

NR-1, Alvin and other research craft had windows…small ones.

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Tiger February 1, 2014 at 6:56 pm

I say lets go whole hog…………. Build the Flying Sub from "Voyage to the bottom of the Sea!"

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JCwork January 31, 2014 at 5:33 pm

The mesh screens kept them from closing properly.

Sonar and fiber optic cameras.

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kuzinov February 2, 2014 at 11:24 am

One, if you read the article, the sensors are way better for navigating than by sight. But, what do you expect these guys to do? While stealthily sneaking in at night, turn on 400 gigawatt lights so they can see out a porthole? Real stealthy.

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sailor12 February 6, 2014 at 10:54 am

How do they see in normal subs???

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TM1(SS) RET February 6, 2014 at 11:13 am

Sonar

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TM1(SS) RET February 6, 2014 at 11:14 am

…and we use periscopes at PD (Periscope Dept).

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SJE January 30, 2014 at 10:05 pm

The drug cartels are pretty adept at the minisub business

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sailor12 February 6, 2014 at 10:55 am

Those aren't mini subs but low profile boats

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mpower6428 January 31, 2014 at 1:46 am

but seriously guys, keep it a secret ok…?

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thearock January 31, 2014 at 5:14 am

All SEALs are issued two Mark II Series W/SW/IR Eyeballs.

My question is if they arrive dry and underwater how do they get on shore without getting wet or filling the sub with water? Does it come with a moon pool, or does it beach like a whale?

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Joe Schmo January 31, 2014 at 10:31 am

THe idea here is to get them from whatever ship/sub they come in on to the beach without being detected. Stand-off distance from the ship/sub can be significant. Presently they use a wet submersible as described which exposes them to the cold water and immediately starts sapping their energy. A dry submersible will get them as close as the wet sub but without exposture to the cold water. Therefore they will have more energy and be more alert when they depart the dry submersible and swim the final distance.

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Curt January 31, 2014 at 1:27 pm

It would need some kind of a airlock for the passengers and crew. Hopefully it will turn out better than the ASDS. Traditionally, SOCOM has sucked at this kind of development (to be fair the services aren't much better) due to requirements creep.

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TM1(SS) RET February 6, 2014 at 11:18 am

They will probably use a floodable lock-out system, like the forward emergency escape trunk on fast attack subs.

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Big-B January 31, 2014 at 5:34 am

dont worry in the end it will be too expensive to be kept secret :-)

however a nice idea but why not go a little further and buy a german uboat class 214?

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Jay January 31, 2014 at 6:08 am

Totally reinventing the wheel. Again. The ASDV was exactly what we needed 10 years ago.

I have become so completely disappointed with my Navy, and it's total lack of efficiency in fielding new platforms.

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BigDaddy57 January 31, 2014 at 9:51 pm

It seems the whole DOD is in that situation.

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Tad February 1, 2014 at 12:54 pm

Me too. I think the main problem is that they do development concurrent with the purchase.

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Dfens February 4, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Or maybe when you pay a "for profit" company more profit to screw up it catches their attention.

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blight_ February 4, 2014 at 2:15 pm

If you paid Samsung to make crappy phones, why would they make good ones?

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Dfens January 31, 2014 at 9:01 am

This guy is building one in his basement using an F-16 canopy and electric motors. Maybe he could help the Navy out? Of course, he wouldn't charge them $44 million so what's the point, right? http://www.huv.com/jon/miniSub/gallery.html

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Tiger February 1, 2014 at 7:02 pm

Not cool enough. Now a Submarine Lotus Espirt frome Q- branch would be cool……

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Dfens February 4, 2014 at 9:24 am

So true, but this one would fit in a missile tube, and the guy is building it in his garage.

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bob January 31, 2014 at 9:18 am

There are dry subs for tourist in the bahamas, just take that "technology", paint it grey and get on with it

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Matt January 31, 2014 at 9:38 am

I experienced this technology in action, in a little known backwoods Florida town, back in 1978. Fella named Walt Disney had this thing set up and called it 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and you would get in and ride along under water and watch stuff happening. Fascinating that the military is looking at something similar now.

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Joe Schmo January 31, 2014 at 10:28 am

Walt's submarine ran on tracks under the water. No tracks where these guys need to go.

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Matt January 31, 2014 at 1:58 pm

Tracks! You've discovered the secret missing piece. Tracks on the submersible, and a few guns, then add some armor, and a sweet electronics package…

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blight_ January 31, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Who needs EFV when Marines will drive across the ocean on submarines…!

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oblatt2 January 31, 2014 at 11:48 am

Equipment that doesn't exist for a mission that doesn't exist.

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blight January 31, 2014 at 12:16 pm

http://nr-1-book.com/Chapter16.html

A blast from the blast; and perhaps presaging cost-overrun-hell.

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Willie January 31, 2014 at 12:23 pm

With the help of the Italians? Does the flopped JSF ring a bell? We need to do it ourselves without other countries low bid input.
Or is it Pasta powered?

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blight_ February 5, 2014 at 10:51 am

Italians have a longer track record of minisubs, stemming from their early record with frogmen operations going as far back as WW2.

That said, maybe we should look at some captured Nork minisubs…

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blight_ January 31, 2014 at 1:02 pm

I guess ASDS is dead again and something else always seems to rise back up again.

"The project dies, but it gets up again…"

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Curt January 31, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Hopefully SOCOM learned from ASDS, and this is certainly less ambitious, but I won't hold my breath. Preventing requirements creep is not SOCOMs strength.

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Kim Scholer January 31, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Is that Putin on the right?

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Dfens February 4, 2014 at 9:26 am

Good one. I'm pretty sure it is.

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A. Nonymous February 25, 2014 at 12:49 am

It can't be. He's wearing a shirt.

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bob dobbs January 31, 2014 at 3:55 pm

Do we need a new terror weapon? Useless parasites dingldberries. Get a real job.

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hibeam January 31, 2014 at 9:18 pm

I tried to tell them we needed a SOCOM version of the F-35. But noooo!!

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Steven February 1, 2014 at 6:35 pm

even if you put it in development for the next 50 years , its still not going to cost as much as the Non functioning , Cracking at high speeds , causing pilots to faint – F35
which is STILL in development

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Hunter76 February 1, 2014 at 10:15 am

Small submersibles for bringing in combat specialists is sensible and certainly being pursued by our competitors, like Russia, Iran, NK, etc. Here's my list of design considerations. Ymmv:

Dry. Makes sense.
Air droppable. Quickly get the asset near where it's needed. C-130-able would be a reasonable max.
Towable. Powerful endurance multiplier. Everything from regular Navy ship to submarine to trawler is in play.
Avoid the submarine service. These boats have little in common with nuke-powered capital ships. Bad mix. Wet-deck assault ships are a better fit.
Avoid bloat. The 16 passenger ASDS was clearly too big. 6 passengers might be right-sized.
Avoid advanced tech. Fear of loss of the technology shouldn't be a factor in planning such hi risk missions. Be ready to lose the inbound taxi. Plus reduce costs at least 90%.

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Tiger February 1, 2014 at 7:00 pm

Can we get Q branch to loan us 007's underwater Lotus? The SEALS could arrive in dinner jackets with PPK's…….

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Guest February 2, 2014 at 12:48 pm

This is great news. I was just wondering if they were going to do a follow up to the ASDS a few days ago. I never understood how they messed up that program, I mean a minisub isn't exactly a radical concept. But better late than never I suppose.

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vincent February 4, 2014 at 8:17 pm

We put a man on the moon forty years ago. This sub should present little problem. Why such a comotion?

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Dfens February 5, 2014 at 8:48 am

And today we not only can't put a man on the moon, hell, we can't even put a man in low earth orbit. We have to buy rides on Soviet Union designed Russian rockets just to put one of our hot shot asstronauts on our own damn space station, and John Glenn first orbited the Earth 52 years ago. Are you starting to catch on to why there's some concern?

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Dr.Mik Atoms February 6, 2014 at 12:52 am

It is not our space station; or does International mean something else?
How do you guys do it? If I read and responded to the number of articles you do I would have no time for work and hobbies (surfing, sailing, kite flying/ building, model building, go, backgammon and Chinese chess and sex) get a life oh and I’m 60 years old.

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Dfens February 6, 2014 at 9:12 am

Maybe if you were smarter, you could figure out how to use the "Reply" button.

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