The Russian Special Operations Forces (SOF) will be receiving an advanced infiltration capability in the form of futuristic mini subs.

According to a source from the Russian government, “the Main Directorate of Deep-Water Research of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation showed interest in the apparatus, and it considers these bathyscaphes [which is a manned submersible vehicle] as a means for conducting special underwater operations.” He added that the Russian Navy intends to allocate at least two mini subs to each of its three battle fleets (Black Sea, Northern, and Pacific).

According to the specifications and information provided by the Russian Ministry of Defense, the mini subs will be able to dive up to 1.6 miles beneath the surface. They will have a crew of three operators, although Russian government officials didn’t specify if the submersible will be able to carry additional personnel. The mini subs, which will be shaped like a ball, will be constructed out of a transparent layer of acrylic and titanium. Furthermore, an electric engine will provide enough energy to operate the vessel for a minimum of 24 hours. Finally, the mini subs will be designed so they can be launched from any military or civilian vessel in the Russian inventory. The underwater vessels are expected to be operational by 2022.

Samuel Bendett, a researcher at CNA and a fellow in Russia Studies at the American Foreign Policy Council, said the new mini subs, which can operate on the bottom of the ocean, will enable Russian SOF to conduct operations that were previously outside their capabilities. “The fact that there are no limitations on what vessel can carry it means that there would be fewer limitations for the Russian special forces to act, via this deep-diving vessel,” he added.

The mini subs were originally designed for use by energy companies to conduct underwater surveys for oil and natural gas resources or to support deep-sea oil-drilling rigs.

The mini subs will provide yet another vessel to the Russian SOF’s infiltration capabilities. A few months ago, the Spetsnaz were issued a new special operations craft named Project 02800 – a vessel similar to the U.S. Navy’s Mark V Special Operations Craft (SOC), which Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCC) operate to infiltrate and exfiltrate Navy SEALs from objectives or conduct other maritime special operations. A fast-moving craft, Project 02800 has been developed for maritime counter-terrorism and interdiction roles. It has a crew of two and can carry 10 fully-kitted commandos.