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JFD showcases Shadow Seal TDV at SOF Week, eyes US market expansion

3rd May 2024 - 18:00 GMT | by Andrew White in Tampa

At SOF Week, James Fisher Defence presents its innovative Shadow Seal TDV, designed to offer special operations forces advanced capabilities with extended range and versatile deployment options from submarines to surface operations.

James Fisher Defence (JFD) will demonstrate its Carrier Seal and Shadow Seal tactical diving vehicles (TDV) at SOF Week in Tampa, Florida, this week as it looks to make a push into the US market and expand on concepts of operation associated with more traditional swimmer delivery vehicles (SDVs).

Speaking to Shephard ahead of the convention, company officials described how TDVs can provide special operations forces (SOF) a step-change in capability over in-service SDVs, which are typically launched from submarines and restricted to operating underwater. Such deployments, officials suggested, risked the exposure of strategic submarines.

Highlighting its extended range over SDVs and ability to operate on the surface, semi-submerged and underwater, JFD’s strategy, sales and marketing director Alistair Wilson described how TDVs could be launched from harbours and motherships at significantly further stand-off ranges, thereby reducing the requirement to forward deploy Virginia- and Ohio-class submarines, for example.

TDVs have yet to become a programme of record within the US Special Operations Command, however, as the Tampa-based organisation continues to focus on transitioning from Mk8 SDVs to Teledyne FLIR’s Mk11 Shallow Water Combat Submersible (SWCS).

US Naval Special Warfare also operates the Lockheed Martin, Submergence Group and MSubs Dry Combat Submersible (DCS) SDV, which became operational last year and, in addition, is considering a next-generation DCS solution, now referred to as the Submarine Launched Dry Submersible (SLDS).

But, according to Wilson, NSW, the US Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC) and US Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) are keen to “start understanding the capability” of TDVs.

Wilson confirmed to Shephard that both Carrier Seal and Shadow Seal platforms will conduct demonstrations on the Garrison Channel, which runs past the Tampa Convention Center.

This will take place on multiple occasions over the course of the week, immediately after the international SOF capability demonstration which features helicopters, ground vehicles, surface vessels, sniper teams and combat divers.

JFD is also bidding to showcase both TDVs in the US Department of Defense’s Foreign Comparative Testing (FCT) programme as well as participating in future exercises including NSW’s Trident Spectre Special Operations Innovation Proving Ground which runs annually every April out of Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in Virginia.

In March 2022, JFD signed a strategic partnership with Blue Tide Marine to cooperate in the North American market. The agreement included the lease of an initial production model of the Shadow Seal TDV to support customer demonstrations in the US. A prototype of the Shadow Seal MK1D was showcased at SOF Week last year.

Wilson confirmed Blue Tide Marine was “in the process” of receiving its first Shadow Seal TDV with acceptance trials scheduled to begin immediately after SOF Week.

He went on to describe how Carrier Seal and Shadow Seal platforms could be used to support special reconnaissance as well as the tactical insertion/extraction of small unit teams, particularly in littoral and denied environments where even low observable craft can be easily spotted by well-equipped adversaries.

“Platforms must be covert and go underwater,” Wilson stressed before explaining how TDVs were “hard to spot when operating in an already noisy environment” at a depth of just two to three metres below the surface.

The Carrier Seal, which has the capacity to carry eight personnel, has a maximum surface range of 150nm (travelling at 30kts) and a 40nm range underwater. The range can be extended with the integration of fuel bags.

Meanwhile, Shadow Seal has a maximum range of 60nm on the surface, typically travelling at speeds between five and seven kts. It can carry a total of four operators.

Elsewhere, Wilson said the procurement of an undisclosed number of Carrier Seals had been “earmarked” in Sweden’s latest defence budget. He also suggested TDVs were in service with undisclosed customers in northern Europe and Asia.

Finally, he suggested some kind of TDV capability could be applicable to the strategic AUKUS agreement between Australia, the UK and the US. Pillar 2 of AUKUS is focused on the underwater battlespace.

Andrew White


Andrew White

Andrew is a former editor of Digital Battlespace and Unmanned Vehicles magazines. Andrew joined Shephard …

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