June 15, 2016

SOCOM's Dry Combat Submersible prompting safer US LIB Development

Lockheed Martin's S302 Dry Combat Submersible (DCS) intentionally dull locking to promote stealth (Artwork courtesy H I Sutton's Covert Shores)


Since I wrote the article below (in June 2016)

-  See this August 10, 2016 Popular Mechanics article indicating that the latest Dry Combat Submersible (DCS) is less stealthy than older models because the DCS can only be lowered from a surface ship rather than attached to a submarine.  

-  StrategyPage, August 2, 2016, reports :
"SOCOM has ordered three of these [Dry Combat Submersibles] for $55.4 million each. Each DSC can carry a crew of two and six SEALs and their equipment. Max depth is 100 meters (320 feet) and max speed is nine kilometers an hour". 


I have re-written this article as the route I suggested of emulating the Russian all features Losos-Piranha diesel mini-sub took the debate far away from the battery only submersibles the US has been developing. The US seems determined to develop submarine Lithium-ion Batteries (LIBs).

The SOCOM Dry Combat Submersible (DCS) Program is seeking, new, efficient, safe LIBs with a low risk of catching fire. See General Atomics' updates at the end of this article.

Problem - SEALS (called Clearance Divers elsewhere) and other special forces (even, the odd, non-military, Agent) become tired in WET submersibles where they have to wear and breathe scuba gear. The water can also be freezing making them cold and even more exhausted before they hit the beach

A DRY submersible has occasionally been seen as a solution but having quiet, long enough range, propulsion has been a major technical obstacle. Also the occupants of a DRY submersible may still need to change into some WET gear to transition from submersible to beach. All this may leave DRY submersibles a comparatively low priority for the USN, with much likely riding on new, efficient and safe Lithium-ion Batteries. 

DRY submersible programs need to compete with the USNs already well developed WET swimmer delivery vehicles for divers/SEALS wearing scuba gear. See Submarine Matters article Navy SEAL and Submarine Capabilities of August 18, 2014.

Reading https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_SEAL_Delivery_System  a DRY submersible was developed from studies in 1984 until problems became too great by 2009
-  Along the way a "study issued in 2003 cited two major technical problems: noisy propellers and silver-zinc batteries that depleted more quickly than planned. A new propeller made of composite material [was] developed to rectify the noise problem. Development [was] under way on lithium-ion batteries to replace the silver-zinc batteries and enable the electrical system to meet the navy's requirements [by 2006] however, technical, reliability, and cost issues [proved practically] insurmountable."
-  Then a prototype was "damaged in a "serious fire" in November 2008 [which ended that DRY program] As of December 2008 the cause of the fire is yet to be determined."

Pete's Comment - It may well be that use of not yet fully developed LIBs was at the root of the fire.

A US Defense Department document of 2011 indicates the US requirement revived (or continued) in 2011 for a battery powered dry submersible - see http://www.dtic.mil/ndia/2011SOFIC/Wed1515Rms22_23Armstrong.pdf  

The requirement as at 2016 seems to have shifted from the USN main carriage to US Special Operations Command (SOCOM). There may be a two finalist runoff for a 10 meter long DRY submersible, called the SOCOM bland User Operational Evaluation System (UOES). Finalists may be General Dynamics Electric Boat vs Lockheed Martin, each working with a three-year, $44 million SOCOM firm-fixed price design, build and deliver contract. A requirement includes carriage of up to six people. 

- On June 10, 2016 Scout Warrior reported on the General Dynamics Electric Boat bid, GD-EB is working with Italy’s Giunio Santi Engineering (GSEgiven Italy's lengthy record of building devastingly effective mini-subs and diver delivery vehicles


- on June 7, 2016 H I Sutton/Covert Shores, discusses the Lockheed Martin S302 Dry Combat Submersible (DCS) design

 Ideally DRY and WET submersibles can fit into dry deck shelter (DDS) that sits on a submarine back behind the sail/fin of large submarines. A large SSN may be required for DDS/decompression chamber assembly above. I wonder if Australia's future Shortfin would be large enough? (Diagram courtesy HI Sutton/Covert Shores)

I've pieced together some details of the LIB specs likely to apply to the SOCOM Dry Combat Submersible. A 2005 reference indicated: For "Class 8" (2 pilots + 6 special forces) submersible "...it will apparently be eleven metres long, propelled by two eight-kW motors and powered by a lithium-ion battery. This will give a range of 50 nautical miles (93 km) at five knots, with a maximum speed of six knots."  

A September 3, 2013 report from Military Aerospace repeated similar specs to the 2005 reference, with "USSOCOM officials are interested in dry combat submersibles that can move at speeds of at least five knots, at depths to 200 feet, with provisions for two pilots. [earlier indicating] Officials of the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Ind., have awarded a $12.5 million contract to General Atomics for lithium ion batteries to be used on the Dry Combat Submersible program of…SOCOM at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla."

On April 13, 2016 GovConWire reported: "TYSONS CORNER, VA, April 13, 2016 - General AtomicsLithium-ion Fault Tolerant battery technology has been certified by Det Norske Veritas Germanischer Lloyd after it completed tests aboard an undersea vehicle of the U.S. Special Operations Command, ExecutiveBiz reported Tuesday."

Two days earlier, on April 11, 2016 General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS)  reported:
""Unlike prior Lithium-ion battery technologies, GA-EMS' LiFT battery system offers a single cell fault tolerance to prevent uncontrolled cascading failure.  This means the battery is capable of surviving a catastrophic cell failure without propagating to neighboring cells, ensuring the safety of on-board personnel and equipment," stated Paul Clark, senior manager responsible for LiFT program at GA-EMS."

So the US is clearly developing LIBs for, at least, DRY delivery submersible use. Whether the US will have LIBs as backup batteries on its SSNs and new SSBNs is a mystery. 

There seems to be no pictures of GA's LiFT batteries available...

See a subsequent Business Insider article of July 27, 2016.



Anonymous said...

The only two units of the project 865 have been destroyed as early as 1999.
And they were not sofit for the task...

Nicky K.D Chaleunphone said...

HI pete,
Would the Germany Type 212 fit the perfect bill for Special forces

MHalblaub said...

The solution with a dry dock shelter is second best. A real small submarine would be better.

Bad luck for the US. Germany scrapped all of its Type 206 submarines.

Maybe a new Type 210 would be cheaper than an US SSK.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Starshiy

Thanks for http://www.soumarsov.eu/Sous-marins/Post45/865/865.htm

It seems that the Losos-Piranha was very complex mechanically and expensive to build (each Losos having 100+ tons of Titanium).

The Russians/Soviets seemed to suffer from making the Losos a fully featured small submarine - probably custom made for the Baltic?

Do you know which way Russian development, post-Losos, is going?

1. Submersible boats? like http://www.hisutton.com/Russian%20Triton-NN%20SDV.html

2. Swimmer Delivery Vehicles (SDVs)

3. More advanced mini-subs or

4. UUVs

Or all of them?



Peter Coates said...

Hi Nicky

I think with America's mainly transoceanic geography - in which main "enemy shores" are 1,000s miles from the US East and West coasts, dry or wet US mini-subs cannot get to their objectives wholly using their own engines. So piggy-backing on a much larger sub is necessary.

Cuba might have been the one close "enemy shore" for the US, but no longer.

The US also relies on its "small" SSK owning allies. So the US would rely on Germany and Italy's 212s, Netherland's Walrus subs, Australian Collins, Japanese and South Korean subs to do much of the close-in work.



Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub

In choosing a "real small submarine" having a quiet propulsion system may be essential.

So that may eliminate diesels and instead suggest Lithium-ion Batteries (if adequate by themselves). Perhaps the addition of fuel-cell AIP may make sense for some missions.

I think/hope the US may keep on relying on:

- Baltic countries to operate 210s or smaller.

- Italy to come up with mini-sub Mediterranean solutions

- Columbia to operate its "new" 206 for counter-drug smuggling ops see http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2015/11/columbias-newly-renovated-tkms-type-206s.html and

- South Korea to develop mini-small subs, eg. HDS-400 (400 tonne) probably relying on LIBs see http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2015/10/south-korean-hhis-hds-400-small.html
would be better.

Hopefully the US will continue to talk to Italy/Germany/S Korea and not spend needless $Billions (at Losos-Piranha prices) reinventing mini-subs.



Nicky K.D Chaleunphone said...

Hi pete,
The way I am thinking is that the US can look at getting a Type 212 or Type 210 MOD and post them in Places like Rota Spain, Diego Garcia and Guam. That way they are close enough to respond.

MHalblaub said...

Dear Pete,
an US Dry Deck Shelter (DDS) has a diameter of 9 feet. Diameter of Type 210 is 15 feet. So just 6 feet or 2 meters more for a real submarine.

A Type 210 Remora would not need a Diesel engine or big 21 inch torpedo tubes. An AIP and Lithium Ion Batteries should be aufficienct. The submarine could also contain the divers chamber. The Remora itself can accommodate the divers and other specialists.

The Type 210 Remora would need maneuver thrusters and a kind of clamps to lock on.

The basic submarine is ready and in service.

For sure the Type 210 Remora will not fit inside a C-5 Galaxy.


Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub [at 14/6/16 3:36 AM]

I see no references to a Type 210 REMORA. Is the Remora newer and smaller than the 210mod?

The 210mod has a pressure hull of 5.5 meters and "Height incl. sail" of 11 meters - see https://www.thyssenkrupp-marinesystems.com/en/hdw-class-210mod.html .

In any case:

1. The shorter range US diver delivery vehicles are fundamentally different from all-featues 210s (which owe their 1,000 tonne size to the diesel engine) and

2. I argue that it is better for the US to rely on its allies to field small subs (like the 210). This is because US geography means "enemy shores" are 1,000s of kms away from the US East and West coasts, so no good for short endurance 210s.



Anonymous said...

I do not see this dry sub as a high priority project for USN, not even a mid priority one either. USN already faces major issues on its boat building so this no doubt will fall off the table soon enough.

Peter Coates said...


I've done more research.

Looks like a DRY special forces submersible may well be low priority for the USN, with much likely riding on new, efficient and safe Lithium-ion Batteries:

- the US already has a well developed WET https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swimmer_Delivery_Vehicle for divers/SEALS wearing scuba gear

- reading https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_SEAL_Delivery_System a DRY submersible was developed from studies in 1984 until problems became too great by 2009

Along the way a "study issued in 2003 cited two major technical problems: noisy propellers and silver-zinc batteries that depleted more quickly than planned. A new propeller made of composite material [was] developed to rectify the noise problem. Development [was] under way on lithium-ion batteries to replace the silver-zinc batteries and enable the electrical system to meet the navy's requirements

.[by 2007] however, technical, reliability, and cost issues [proved] nearly insurmountable."

Then a prototype was "damaged in a "serious fire" in November 2008 [ended that DRY program] As of December 2008 the cause of the fire is yet to be determined."

My Comment - I wonder if a Lithium-ion Battery was at the root of the fire?

- A US Defense Department document of 2011 indicates a subsequent US requirement for a battery powered dry submersible for at least 5 years see http://www.dtic.mil/ndia/2011SOFIC/Wed1515Rms22_23Armstrong.pdf

but there has been little visible progress.


Nicky K.D Chaleunphone said...

Hi Pete,
Check out this article, it may interest you

Lethal Alliance Under the Sea: Why France Is Helping Australia Build Attack Subs by Kym Bergmann

Peter Coates said...

Hi Nicky K.D Chaleunphone [at 16/6/16 2:36 AM]

Far earlier than http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/lethal-alliance-under-the-sea-why-france-helping-australia-16591?page=show

Submarine Matters has focussed on the DCNS pump jet factor since:

- April 29, 2016 http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2016/04/shortfins-pump-jet-propulsor-sales.html and more recently

- May 31, 2016 http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2016/05/australian-government-reveals-why-dcns.html in which I said:

"...developed pumpjets only come from countries that have developed pumpjets for their own large nuclear submarines. With pumpjets equating to higher silent speeds that excludes Germany and Japan from the higher speeds criterion that Australia seems to have rated very strongly. In the end a pumpjet may not turn out to be viable for the Shortfin's propulsion - then where will Australia be?"

Although writers for ASPI do not acknowledge the existence of Submarine Matters I'm glad they subsequently concur with Submarine Matters' findings so often.



Anonymous said...

I agree with you that although the dry submarine may be a low priority, it is a suitable test bed to try and develop new technologies that likely will find applications on other USN platforms.

Peter Coates said...

Hi KQN [at 17/6/16 11:02 AM]

I agree.

1. Its interesting that the USN and SOCOM have had a share of the dry submersible program.

It appears that the USN was the main backer from the 1980s to 2009

Then from 2011 SOCOM appear to be the main backer - as http://www.dtic.mil/ndia/2011SOFIC/Wed1515Rms22_23Armstrong.pdf reveals.

Maybe SOCOM have more money or higher priority?

2. The poor old USN appears to suffer the budgetary weight of:

- Super Hornets wearing out due to the near crippled F-35 project
- Ford carrier arrester system problems
- LCS problems, and
- too few SSNs with each passing year

to name a few.



MHalblaub said...

REMORA was just an ad hoc idea by me / of mine. Just to use an existing small submarine chained to the SSN instead of experimental craft.

How much range does such a small MUV has? How close does an US SSN wants to get to an enemy shore?


Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub [21/6/16 7:54 AM]

Judging by Specifications given for http://www.hisutton.com/Lockheed%20Dry%20Combat%20Submersible.html

The SOCOM requirement for the Dry SEAL Delivery Vehicle may well be 60 nm. More than enough for many targets, but for China or Russia?