According to a report from IHS Jane’s Navy International, a new maritime platform intended for special operations forces (SOF), and designed and built by SubSea Craft, has begun undersea trials as of mid-September 2017. The Diver Delivery Unit (DDU) was displayed at the Defense and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition in London, UK, from September 12-15, 2017.
Jane’s reports that the DDU performed surface trials in mid-2017, demonstrating its stability when operating at high speeds, but had yet to perform sub-surface operations prior to these undersea trials. Such capability is critical for this hybrid craft, as it is advertised to have this capability in order to function as an insertion platform for SOF.
According to SubSea’s website, the DDU was designed specifically for SOF “rapid response littoral operations,” including surveillance, mine-countermeasures, anti-piracy, underwater survey, deployment and recovery of mission systems, and search and rescue. The DDU was intended to “cross the surface at speed, and then transition to a submersible craft offering speed, depth, payload capacity, distance and stealth.” The company claims the craft combines “exceptional surface performance with a transitional submersion mechanism and outstanding sub-surface maneuverability, speed and range.”
The DDU could feasibly perform well as a surveillance and intelligence platform, presumably, if one used their imagination, and envisioned a clandestine insertion, sensor placement, and long-duration intelligence collection mission for the craft. SubSea does not thoroughly detail such a usage, per se, but it has no doubt occurred to some of the UK-based company’s potential customers.
When it comes to deploying the DDU, SubSea states that the unit can be stored, deployed, and retrieved by a number of existing platforms, including a “mother ship,” using a standard shipping container and crane; a fixed-wing air platform, such as the C-130; or a rotary-wing platform (helicopter) using a sling system, such as the CH-47. The DDU would then “self-recover” to presumably a maritime asset at sea, although such a recovery is not detailed by SubSea.
As far as how it actually works, the DDU’s surface propulsion is provided by “common fuel diesel engines” and a jet drive. It has a catamaran-style hull design, which allows for free flooding when submersion is required. Its sub-surface propulsion is then provided by an electrical system based on Formula-E racing battery technology, according to SubSea.
The DDU’s intended missions are not only limited to military SOF units, either, according to SubSea. The company also advertises that the DDU could perform customs, drug enforcement, anti-piracy, maritime oil and gas exploration, environmental, and homeland security operations. In other words, they intend it to be versatile, and would like non-military agencies to also consider employing it operationally.
It remains to be seen if this seemingly innovative platform will perform capably in testing and evaluation, and prove a viable option for maritime SOF insertion, extraction, and other missions. If so, perhaps American SOF or other government agencies will look into making future purchases from the UK-based SubSea.
Featured image courtesy of SubSea.