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US Declares Operational New Special Ops Dry Combat Submersible 

Dry Combat Submersible
DCS sailing to the ocean for tests in March 2023 (Lockheed Martin)

Published Jul 28, 2023 2:56 PM by The Maritime Executive

The United States is expanding its special operations capabilities with the acceptance of a new class of Dry Combat Submersible (DCS). Lockheed Martin, which received the contract for the development of the vessels in 2016, reported that U.S. Special Operations Command recently declared the vessels’ Initial Operational Capability.

The DCS is designed to transport a special operations team for covert insertion and recovery and due to its unique design dramatically increases both the distance and endurance as well as the comfort of the team during the transport phase of their operation.

"The Dry Combat Submersible has the potential to transform undersea warfare for special operators,” said Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager Gregg Bauer. “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."

The DCS is a 39.4-foot long submersible able to accommodate up to eight personnel and two crewmembers. It is battery-powered. Other details however have not been released.

A Navy document reviewing the status of the program and the testing noted that “By reducing operator exposure to the underwater environment, the dry environment of DCS improves mission endurance and range over existing small submersibles.”

The vehicle can travel for longer distances below the surface of the ocean while the closed environment means occupants will no longer require wetsuits and will not be exposed to the elements as they are in the current generation of open submersibles uses to transport special ops teams. The lock-in/lock-out technology also permits the team to enter and exit the submersible while entirely submerged and undetected.

“The Lockheed Martin team is proud of the work that has gone into the development and delivery of DCS and supporting U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) to this IOC milestone,” says Jason Crawford, senior program manager for Manned Combat Submersibles. “We look forward to delivering the third DCS and supporting DCS into Full Operating Capacity, filling a critical gap for USSOCOM.”

Lockheed Martin has delivered the first two submersibles in a three vessel contract. Testing was delayed due to the pandemic. In February 2022, the status report said the cyber survivability test had been completed and they reported that analysis was underway with testing expected to be completed during FY 2023.  

A Dry Combat Submersible, manufactured at Lockheed Martin’s Palm Beach, Florida facility transited to open water sea trials, which were completed in March 2023. The company reports it received notification of the Initial Operational Capability in June 2023.