General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) announced on 15 February that it has delivered the first shipset of Lithium-ion Fault Tolerant (LiFT) batteries for the US Special Operations Command’s (USSOCOM) new Dry Combat Submersible (DCS), a long endurance delivery vehicle capable of transporting personnel in a dry environment. GA-EMS is under contract with Lockheed Martin to provide LiFT batteries to power the DCS propulsion and internal support systems.
“We have made significant investment in developing the LiFT battery concept and have successfully demonstrated the reliability and resiliency of the LiFT battery system in realistic undersea conditions as well as in extreme testing environments,” Rolf Ziesing, Vice President of Programs at GA-EMS, stated. “We are proud to be supporting this program and are excited to deliver the first battery system for DCS. This milestone represents a big step forward in meeting the demand for safer and more capable battery systems for undersea applications.”
LiFT’s modular design and single cell fault tolerance is designed to prevent uncontrolled and catastrophic cascading Lithium-ion cell failure, improving the safety of personnel and platforms while keeping power available for high mission assurance. The flexible architecture of the high energy density LiFT battery system can be configured to meet the most demanding needs of manned and unmanned underwater vehicles. LiFT battery systems have undergone rigorous at-sea testing, including use in other undersea vehicles that have been classified by Det Norske Veritas Germanischer Lloyd (DNV-GL), an international accredited registrar and classification society for the maritime industry, further demonstrating the safe operation of the LiFT battery system architecture.
Capable of carrying eight SEALs, the DCS would be used to infiltrate hostile areas, carrying soldiers to within reach of accessible coastlines. The submersible is to be delivered this year, answering what SOCOM calls an "urgent need." It's been urgent for a while. In fact, SOCOM actually had an operational mini-sub in 2003. The ill-fated Advanced Seal Delivery System (ASDS) was the predecessor to DCS. The key feature of the new DCS is that it will keep SEALs dry. They will be fully enclosed inside a mini-submarine while in transit, reducing their exposure to cold water and fatigue. Up to now, SEALs have gone ashore from SEAL Delivery Vehicles (SDV). These are semi-enclosed submersibles in which the SEALs ride, exposed to the water while breathing from the vehicle's compressed air supply or using their own SCUBA gear.
The DCS does not have the ability to be launched from a full-size submarine. The old ASDS was designed to be to deployed from the US Navy's (USN) OHIO-class guided missile submarines. In fact, the USN converted four subs during the mid-2000s to allow them to carry and launch ASDS. DCS will only be deployable from a surface ship. The means of getting it off the deck and into the water have yet to be determined, though use of a crane or A-frame is likely. The presence of a large ship putting DCS into the water 60mi offshore is hardly clandestine or stealthy. The SSGN-deployed ASDS would have been much more difficult to detect. SOCOM will have to work out compensatory tactics if DCS is to be used successfully.
According to James Smith, the former Deputy Director for Acquisition of SOCOM, now Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, recently stated that beginning production of a second dry combat submersible is considered a new start for FY18, not being able to get work underway until a budget is appropriated this year. "The dry combat submersible programme is an important programme for SOCOM and I’m confident we’ll be able to work together towards a solution and deliver the capability," he explained.