Submarines: SOCOM Submarine Scuttled

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April 24, 2006: The U.S. Navy is not going to build anymore of its 65 foot long ASDS (Advanced Seal Delivery Systems) submarines. Instead, there is a new 2008 deadline for getting the lone ASDS in shape for regular service. This boat was being developed for SOCOM (Special Operations Command). After ten years of development, the first production boat has been training and undergoing tests in Hawaii for the last three years, while work continued on making the boat more reliable. This ASDS was expected to officially enter service by the end of 2005. Didn't happen. The ASDA did spend some time in the Persian Gulf for testing and training. But more problems were discovered. So far, over half a billion dollars has been spent on the program, and Congress kept getting antsy about all that money being devoted to one little boat.

The ASDS is a 60 ton mini-submarines. Battery powered and with a crew of two, the ASDS can carry up to 14 passengers (fewer if a lot of equipment is being brought along, the usual number of passengers is expected to be eight.) With a max range of 200 kilometers, top speed of 14 kilometers an hour and max diving depth of 200 feet, the ASDS operates from a nuclear submarine equipped to carry it on its deck. The ASDS can also be launched from the well of an amphibious carrier. The ASDS is equipped with passive and active SONAR, radar and an electronic periscope (that uses a video camera, not the traditional optics.)

While a nice piece of engineering, each additional ASDS will cost over $300 million. The original cost per boat was supposed to be $80 million. Fortunately for the navy, SOCOM (Special Operations Command) is paying for the ASDS boats. Little is said publicly about how often, and where, ASDS will be used. The types of missions ASDS was designed for are often kept secret for a long time. The lone ASDS has apparently carried out some missions, but has also had lots of reliability and maintenance problems.

Reliability problems with a new system are nothing new, but the extent of the money and time overruns on this project, plus the problems the navy is having with the manufacturers of its standard size submarines, are adding fuel to growing anger in the navy over the poor performance of American warship builders.

 


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