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Portsmouth-based SubSea Craft has conducted the first underwater trials with its novel Victa-class maritime delivery platform, the company revealed at DSEI 2023.

Speaking to ESD at the show on 14 September 2023, SubSea Craft CEO Scott Verney revealed that the Victa prototype undertook its first underwater tests early this summer out of the company’s Trials, Testing, and Training (T3) facility at Portland in Dorset, submerging to a depth of 3-5 m.

Verney said the craft had surpassed expectations in its initial performance, for example reaching a speed of 37.5 kts on the surface even though the first craft, operating as a prototype, is a little overweight.

The Victa class is unique in that it combines a fast surface craft and a submersible within the same platform. The vessel can therefore approach its target at speed from offshore before submerging – an automated process in which the cabin is flooded – to effect the stealthy insertion of up to six divers seated behind a crew of two. The prototype first entered the water from the SubSea Craft’s headquarters in Portsmouth, Hampshire, in September 2021, before moving on to the company’s T3 facility in Portland for further testing.

SubSea Craft’s Victa-class maritime delivery platform undertook its first underwater trials early this summer out of the company’s T3 facility at Portland in Dorset. (Photo: SubSea Craft)

Following Victa’s initial underwater trials the rest of the summer involved work to optimise the performance of the craft. “We’ve continued to test some of the systems, such as the dive planes,” said Verney, “and we’re having client demos next week and the week after.

“Now we’re demonstrating it, we’re very excited about the commercial momentum,” said Verney. “On completion of proof of concept we’ve now started manufacture of the second craft and we will continue to progress through to a more advanced TRL [technology readiness level].”

Noting that there will be numerous changes to the second craft as the Victa design is optimised, Verney classified the second Victa as a production craft.

While the Victa class was originally envisaged as a swimmer delivery vehicle, Verney said that a number of other potential mission roles are emerging.

“We’re already talking about the modular capability of Victa and carrying systems rather than people,” he said, adding that possible payloads are “limited only by your imagination, from ISR to potentially kinetic.”

Verney said that SubSea Craft has brought together a digital ecosystem for the Victa class, “allowing us to provide subsequent craft at considerable pace for our clients”. He said it is envisaged that production hubs for the Victa craft would be established in client countries, given that most clients would want some degree of local production.

Meanwhile, Verney said that SubSea Craft, which has now grown to around 75 employees, is engaging in a number of projects that are complementary to the Victa technology, such as biometrics, material science and communications networking, with a particular focus on underwater communications. This work includes establishing partnerships with industry leaders in their fields, including in the UK.

Peter Felstead