By Geoff Fein
U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has decided not to repair its lone Advanced Seal Delivery System (ASDS-1) after it was extensively damaged in a fire late last year.
Instead, the service is seeking funding to begin a new effort that will provide a similar capability to ASDS, Lt. Cmdr. Fred Kuebler, a SOCOM spokesman, told Defense Daily Friday.
"SOCOM has requested funding for the Joint Multi-Mission Submersible (JMMS) program to develop a craft that will provide a capability to meet SOCOM’s requirement," he said.
According to SOCOM’s FY ’10 budget, the service requested $43.4 million for development of the Joint Multi-Mission Submersible.
"JMMS is envisioned to provide longer range transits, through extreme water temperatures, with greater on-station endurance than current SOF undersea mobility platforms. This PE conducts materiel solution analyses and performs technology development phase efforts for a second-generation dry combatant submersible capable of inserting and extracting personnel and/or payloads into denied areas from strategic distances," according to SOCOM’s budget highlights.
On Friday, SOCOM said the cost to repair the Northrop Grumman [NOC] built ASDS was more than the service had budgeted.
"Naval Sea Systems Command and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard estimate it will cost $237 million, $180 million more than SOCOM’s ASDS budget, and 32 months to repair the submersible," Kuebler said.
ASDS, which was designed to clandestinely deliver Navy SEALs from submarines to shallow water, was damaged Nov. 9, 2008, when a fire broke out while its batteries were recharging at its homeport, Naval Station Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, according to SOCOM. The fire damaged the ASDS’ operations compartment, which affected all of the boat’s operating systems. The battery system, sonar, motors and controllers, anchor assembly, and hull were also damaged, SOCOM added.
"ASDS-1 is currently inoperable," Kuebler said. "The root cause analysis to determine the fire’s origin is not complete."
ASDS is currently at its homeport at Naval Station Pearl Harbor, he added. "The future disposition of ASDS-1 is yet to be determined."
In October 2005, half way through the Follow-On Test and Evaluation period, ASDS operators heard a noise in the propeller shaft during testing off the coast of Hawaii. That led Navy personnel operating ASDS to return it to port and inspect the engine (Defense Daily, Oct. 18, 2005).
A few months later, the Navy and SOCOM decided to cancel any future buys of ASDS because of numerous concerns with the reliability of the system. They focused their attentions on improving the reliability of ASDS-1 (Defense Daily, Dec. 1, 2005).
At the time, ASDS was SOCOM’s biggest maritime acquisition program. SOCOM funds ASDS and the Navy manages the program, Olson said.
In May 2008, ASDS-1 operated for the first time from a Navy SSGN, the USS Michigan (SSGN-727). Both the SSGN and Virginia-class submarines are outfitted with the capability to connect with ASDS (Defense Daily, May 1, 2008).
But even with that success, SOCOM did not look to restart its ASDS acquisition effort.