France will use its Suffren nuclear sub for special operations
The nuclear attack submarine, Suffren, officially commissioned for service in June 2022, is the first of a series of six. However, it is yet to fully realize its designed potential — it cannot currently deploy commandos via the 3rd generation underwater motor [PSM3G], a feature facilitated by the mobile deck hangar [also known as Dry Dock Shelter or DDS] positioned behind the pavilion.
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Due to the secretive nature of special operations, information regarding this new equipment remains limited. What is known, however, is that it was produced by Exail [formerly ECA Group], in collaboration with Commando Hubert, and can transport a dozen combat swimmers. The French Navy postulates that this tool is unique in its anti-denial capabilities.
“Few nations possess this type of vector and command the global capacity of the PSM-DDS-SNA triptych. The operational abilities of the PSM3G are revolutionary in comparison to the current PSM2G,” they elucidate.
Despite these advanced features, Suffren is currently unable to operationalize the PSM3G [or potentially drones, as per the editor’s note] since its deck hangar has yet to receive a qualification from Management General Armament [DGA]. However, it is speculated that this is only a temporary setback.
As per the recent edition of RAIDS magazine, Suffren initiated a trial run with its mobile deck hangar in June. A key aspect of the trial is to determine how much the hangar’s presence hampers its efficacy.
In the words of RAIDS, “Tests conducted on the Suffren should pave the way for the commissioning of the DDS. The DDS’s presence on the submarine’s deck slightly reduces performance, to an unknown degree.”
Interestingly, it has been revealed that the PSM3G was utilized by the Hubert Commandos during Phase 4 of the Orion Joint and Combined Exercises, albeit from a surface ship.
Special operations sub are coming into vogue
As we reported the U.S. Navy has added a revolutionary Dry Combat Submersible (DCS) to its fleet. This advanced mini-submarine allows crews to remain fully submerged during operations. Lockheed Martin, the creator of the DCS, confirmed in May that the submarine is now operational within the Navy. To date, two DCS units have been supplied to the Navy, with a third expected soon.
Jason Crawford, Lockheed Martin’s senior program manager for Manned Combat Submersibles, is proud of the team’s accomplishment and is looking forward to the upcoming delivery of the third DCS. The DCS is based on the S351 Nemesis, a mini-submarine design from MSubs. The two companies have been working together on the DCS since 2016.
The S351 submarine
The S351 has an all-electric propulsion system and can travel 66 nautical miles at about five knots, dive to around 330 feet, and accommodate a crew of two and up to eight passengers or equivalent cargo. Compared to the Navy’s latest SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV), the Mk 11, the DCS has a higher operational depth thanks to its self-contained lock-in/lock-out chamber, providing a more comfortable and safer ride for the crew.
Lockheed Martin states that the DCS provides safe and stealthy long-distance transport in a dry environment, leaving operators ready for their mission and supporting their return in the same condition.
The development of a DCS-like capability has been a long-standing goal for the Navy. Despite previous project cancellations and delays, the DCS mini-submarine is now in service. However, its size limits its launch from submerged submarines to those with Dry Deck Shelters (DDS), currently only available on Virginia-class and Ohio-class submarines.
The DCS is typically transported by surface motherships, but the Navy is considering using Air Force C-17A Globemaster III cargo aircraft to speed up deployment. The Navy is planning to develop an upgraded DCS that can be launched from a Virginia-class submarine. It is unclear whether existing DCSs can be modified to this configuration.
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