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US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) last month declared initial operational capability (IOC) with its new Dry Combat Submersible (DCS), the manufacturer of the vessel, Lockheed Martin, announced on 24 July 2023.

TDCS allows special forces operatives to travel for extended distances below the surface of the ocean without the need for wetsuits or exposure to the elements. The vessel features a lock in/lock out system, to allow special operators to exit or enter the vessel while it is entirely submerged, thus minimising any chance of being detected.

The DCS, which Lockheed Martin developed in co-operation with Texas-based Submergence Group, is designed to carry a crew of two planned a team of up to fully equipped swimmers. The vessel is 12 m long, 2.5 m high and has a beam of 2.2 m. Weighing 28 tonnes, it has an operating depth of 100m and a range of 66 n miles at 5 kts (submerged on a standard battery).

A DCS departs Lockheed Martin’s Palm Beach facility in transit to open-water sea trials, which were completed in March 2023. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

The DCS has three watertight sections: a forward compartment that houses the swimmers or other payloads, an amidships swimmer lock-in/lock-out compartment, and an aft compartment that serves as the pilot/navigator operating station.

“The Dry Combat Submersible has the potential to transform undersea warfare for special operators,” Gregg Bauer, C6ISR vice president and general manager at Lockheed Martin, was quoted as saying in a company press release. “DCS provides safe, clandestine delivery for occupants over long distances in a completely dry environment and features a lock-in and lock-out chamber. Occupants arrive at the mission warm, rested, hydrated and ready, making this vessel a key advantage in mission success.”

Achieving IOC has involved Lockheed Martin delivering two DCS platforms this far. Jason Crawford, the company’s senior programme manager for Manned Combat Submersibles, was quoted as saying, “We look forward to delivering the third DCS and supporting DCS into full operating capacity, filling a critical gap for USSOCOM.”

The DCS is manufactured by Lockheed Martin at its facilities in Palm Beach, Florida. Now that IOC for the DCS has been declared, sustainment operations for the vessel will include lifecycle support, post-delivery logistics support, pilot and special operator training, and training equipment to ensure the safe and effective operation of the new capability in future special forces missions.

Peter Felstead