BREAKING: Navy SEALs Long-Awaited Dry Sub in Operation by ‘Memorial Day’ (UPDATED)

By Stew Magnuson

Defense Dept. photo

TAMPA, Florida — By the end of the month, Navy SEALs conducting clandestine underwater missions could arrive at their destinations bone dry rather than sopping wet.

The Dry Combat Submersible is expected to reach initial operational capability by Memorial Day, acquisition executives at Special Operations Command said May 10 during the SOF Week conference in Tampa, Florida.

“This morning we received an operational test report. So that means the Dry Combat Submersible is going to be operational by Memorial Day, and we’re coming to an end scenario,” said John Conway, undersea program manager at SOCOM’s program executive office-maritime.

“That ends a capability gap of 15 years — more than 15 years,” Navy Capt. Randy Slaff, program executive officer for maritime systems at Special Operations Command, noted during a panel discussion. While SOCOM is the end user of the system, the development is executed by the Navy.

Naval special operators needing to travel undersea must currently don wet suits and use the Seal Delivery Vehicle MK 11. The dry submersible is expected to give them more time underwater because they are not exposed to the cold.

Meanwhile, the Block II version of the sub, now called Dry Combat Submersible Next, will soon be renamed the Submarine Launch Dry Submersible, SOCOM Acquisition Executive James Smith told reporters the previous day.

“I’m pleased with the progress,” Smith said. “We’re reliant on the Navy for the success of that program and really happy with how the relationship is progressing.”

The Navy “controls the destiny of the program” as to when it becomes fully certified, he noted. 

For Navy SEALs, the delivery vehicle has been a long time coming. The concept for a dry submersible dates back to the early 1980s with a contract awarded to Northrop Grumman to build six of the Advanced Seal Delivery Systems in 1994.

After years of delays, the first prototype with a 60-ton displacement that could carry up to 16 SEALs was said to be too noisy and had difficulty generating enough power. It then caught fire in 2008 with the damage being too great to repair. By 2009, the Navy canceled the program after spending some $883 million.

Then came the short-lived Joint Multi-Mission Submersible, which also met its demise due to cost overruns in 2010. 

Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor on the third attempt to develop a dry submersible for Navy special operators. This version is smaller at 39.4 feet long with a 30-ton displacement and can carry up to eight special operators plus two pilots. There is a lock-in/lock-out hatch for egressing or returning from mission in their combat wet suits.

Publicly available information states that the new sub can remain underwater for 24 hours, has a range of 60 miles and can travel at depths of 330 feet. It will be deployed via surface ships rather than larger submarines, as is the case with the “wet” submersibles. Its average speed is 5 knots, but the maximum speed remains classified.

Correction: A previous version of the story stated that the Dry Combat Submersible would have its name changed. It is the Block II version of the sub that will change.

Topics: Special Operations-Low Intensity Conflict, Special Operations

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