Russian special forces — SPETNAZ — are set to receiving as many as a half-dozen new futuristic mini-submarines that they’ll use for a range of missions, including covert insertions, according to Tass.
Called bathyscaphes, the underwater craft are transparent and were originally designed to inspect and troubleshoot underwater pipelines.
“However, the Main Directorate of Deep-Water Research of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation showed interest in the apparatus, and it considers these bathyscaphes as a means for conducting special underwater operations,” a military source told the news agency.
The source noted that “the unit during its transfer to the Navy will perform tasks on three fleets – the Northern, Pacific and Black Sea. Each of these fleets will receive at least two vehicles.”
Officials noted that work on the vessels is expected to begin this year.
Each bathyscaphe is equipped with manipulators that allow them to perform work at depths up to 2.5 km (1.5 miles) with a crew of three.
“The device will have the form of a ball with a transparent case of acrylic and titanium, the engine will be electric, ensuring continous operation for at least 24 hours,” the official noted. “Almost any civilian and military vessel can be the carrier of this device.”
The mini-subs can “operate on the sea floor in many parts of the global ocean,” Samuel Bendett, a researcher at the CNA Corporation and a fellow in Russia Studies at the American Foreign Policy Council, told Defense News.
“The fact that there are no limitations on what vessel can carry it where means that there would be fewer limitations for the Russian special forces to act, via this deep-diving vessel,” he added.
Defense News noted further that the U.S. Navy is in the process of developing similar undersea vessels for its SEAL operators.
Lockheed Martin received a $166 million contract in 2016 to design and build new combat submarines based on its commmercial S301i submersible. Testing should be finished this year, the news site reported.