EN TR

Interview

“We would welcome any opportunity to discuss the capability with officials from the Turkish Armed Forces.”

Defence Turkey approached Tim CHICKEN, Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) at Subsea Craft to get first-hand information on the company, current status of VICTA DDU Program, short and medium-term objectives for the VICTA Program, market position of VICTA in the field of Diver Delivery Unit Systems and Subsea Craft’s approach to Turkey as a market for the sale of its products.

Issue 105

Defence Turkey: Can you please briefly introduce your company Subsea Craft to our readers? When and why was it established and what has been accomplished so far?

Tim CHICKEN: SubSea Craft was set up in 2015 when our founder (now Chairman) saw a leisure craft ploughing through waves in the sea and had an idea for a vessel that could operate both on and below the surface. He recognised the potential and decided to form a small team to explore the idea further. In two years, that team had taken the idea from the drawing board to sea-trials with a catamaran variant. However, although many lessons were learned, they decided to shift to a monohull design in 2018 and VICTA was born. The craft is now built and is completing the final stages of its fit-out. It will be launched later in 2021 and will conduct sea trials at our facility in Portland, Dorset, UK where we aim to prove the concept later in the summer. 

Defence Turkey: Can you elaborate on the structure and number of personnel working at Subsea Craft?

Tim CHICKEN: We are a small company of 22 people, divided between Operations, Development (engineering), Commercial and Finance teams. We work in close co-operation with several other businesses.

Defence Turkey: What can you tell us about Subsea Craft’s current technology, R&D, manufacturing capabilities and facilities?

Tim CHICKEN: The craft was fabricated by a small specialist business in the South of England, AC Marine. Once completed, it moved to our facility in Havant to commence fitting-out. It is currently at our facility in Portsmouth where the fitting-out continues and where we will commence the build of production craft.

Defence Turkey: What are Subsea Craft competencies in the Diver Delivery Unit (DDU) sector? Can you please elaborate on the prospective vision of your company on Diver Delivery Unit technologies?

Tim CHICKEN: The Subsea Craft team comprises of a mix of former military officers, specialist engineers and entrepreneurs. We work in partnership with a number of other companies, whose specialist skills allow us to develop this leading-edge capability. BAR-Technologies is a business specialising in high-performance yachts with significant experience in Computational Fluid Dynamics who designed the craft and the fly-by-wire control system.

Defence Turkey: What could you tell us about the international presence and market position of Subsea Craft in the field of Diver Delivery Unit (DDU) Systems, and the international tenders (if any) that you are currently following? What key geographical markets are you targeting?

Tim CHICKEN: We believe that VICTA is a generation ahead of other, similar, vessels currently available. We have undertaken extensive market analysis and research and we believe that there are potential markets stretching from Asia Pacific, through the Middle East, Europe, and North America. We are in discussion with an array of potential clients.

Defence Turkey: Can you please elaborate on the current status of the VICTA Program? When do you plan to perform live demonstration and sea trials with VICTA, which was first unveiled at the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition held in London, in September 2019? Can we get information about your roadmap planned for 2021 within the scope of the VICTA Program? 

Tim CHICKEN: The craft is built and is completing the final stages of its fit-out. It will be launched later in 2021 and will conduct sea trials at our facility in Portland, Dorset, UK where we aim to prove the concept later in the summer. We anticipate attending DSEI London in September where we will display the craft with a series of capability demonstrations following in the subsequent months.

Defence Turkey: Deploying Special Forces operators into their field of operations always has its challenges, but when it comes to covert operations in the open sea, safe insertion, and extraction to and from the field takes on an even greater level of complexity and importance. What leads Subsea Craft to introduce such an innovative even revolutionary vehicle/craft into the market?

Tim CHICKEN: We have extensive experience in the conduct of maritime, joint, and special operations and we are familiar with the capabilities that are currently fielded to conduct those operations. But the contemporary operating environment is very complex, with increasing threats to freedoms or action, access, and movement. This is exacerbated by the availability of low-cost technology, which can serve to further disrupt and impede free movement. Capabilities such as VICTA offer a means to restore freedom of action.

Defence Turkey: Have you collaborated with the Royal Navy or any Navy during the design process of VICTA-02?

Tim CHICKEN: We have engaged in extensive discussion with an array of actors from several states.

Defence Turkey: What is your budget and how many years were needed to develop VICTA? What could you tell us about your partners that you cooperate with under VICTA Program?

Tim CHICKEN: The project has lasted almost 3 years to date. Throughout that, we have worked closely with the likes of BAR-Technologies, CGI, Avon, Sonardyne, SeaTek and Kongsberg (plus several others). Subsea Craft is funded by a single investor however, we are seeking further investment as we look to expand our offering.

Defence Turkey: Are you able to deliver customized versions of VICTA to meet the specific requirements of your customers? 

Tim CHICKEN: We will work closely with customers to meet their needs and are happy to explore the possibilities of licensed production in the home state.

Defence Turkey: Do you also have a plan to develop unmanned/autonomous version of VICTA? 

Tim CHICKEN: VICTA employs cutting-edge technology in its systems, including a fly-by-wire control system, removing the need for traditional rods, wires, and levers for the control. It replaces them with digital signals, which feed actuators at the control surfaces in the same way that contemporary aircraft do. This means that autonomous operation for the craft is eminently feasible, replacing the pilot with a digital input. Whilst this is a highly desirable capability, it is not a priority for the moment however, we will explore it fully once the craft has completed its development.

Defence Turkey: Do you also have a plan to develop a commercial version of VICTA for the commercial diving market?

Tim CHICKEN: We have had some interest from the leisure sector, and we are exploring how VICTA might serve the commercial market. Coronavirus has prevented us from pursuing this at the moment, however, we will be examining it more closely in due course.

Defence Turkey: What feedback have you received on VICTA since DSEI 2019 held in September 2019? For example, what was the interest of the Royal Navy’s Special Boat Service, which according to open sources already operates 3 SEAL/Swimmer Delivery Vehicles in its inventory?

Tim CHICKEN: We have enjoyed significant positive feedback from many different potential clients, including the UK MoD.  

Defence Turkey: Can you please elaborate on the major differences between existing western SEAL/Swimmer Delivery Vehicles (SDVs) and VICTA? Can it be deployed from surface ships and submarines? Can it be launched from the shore? Is it air droppable by the C-130 Hercules or A400M Atlas transport aircraft or can it be carried by a heavy lift helicopter into an operational area as in the case with SDVs?

Tim CHICKEN: VICTA combines many of the characteristics of a fast surface vessel (such as a Long-Range Insertion Craft (LRIC)) and a specialist submersible such as an SDV however, unlike the latter, VICTA is highly flexible and can be launched from any of a range of platforms - such as a road trailer or surface vessel (with the appropriate lift capacity), through to specialist amphibious shipping (LPD, LSD, LHD) and heavy-lift helicopters and transport aircraft. We have also undertaken feasibility work to confirm its compatibility with airdrop.  It is not reliant upon expensive strategic assets (submarine) for its deployment.

Defence Turkey: Can you elaborate on the CONOPS (Concept of Operations) defined for VICTA?

Tim CHICKEN: VICTA offers a customer the ability to undertake missions aligned with the traditional Special Operations portfolio:  Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Offensive Action and Support and Influence tasks. These can be prosecuted as a part of force projection, national defense or constabulary missions.

Defence Turkey: Some SDVs, such as the Mark 9 of the US Navy, are capable of carrying two Mark Mk31 or Mark Mk 37 torpedoes for standoff attacks against ships or can be armed with sea mines. Does VICTA have external and/or internal weapon carriage capabilities?

Tim CHICKEN: Weapons can be mounted on or carried within the craft, depending upon the user’s need.

Defence Turkey: How would you position VICTA in the Diver Delivery Unit market? How does it differ from its competitors? Why should potential customers prefer and order VICTA DDU from you?

Tim CHICKEN: We believe that VICTA is a generation ahead of other, similar, vessels currently available. This stems from the employment of leading-edge technology within the craft and its digital core. A key facet of the craft is its ‘digital twin’, created by harvesting and exploiting its digital thread. This allows for the most efficient maintenance and support, reducing planned maintenance and thus through-life costs whilst enabling simulation, tactical development, and mission rehearsal for its users. VICTA also employs an open-architecture command system, which allows additional capabilities to be added in a ‘plug and play’ fashion.  

Defence Turkey: Do you have a plan to develop a range of swimmer delivery vehicles based on VICTA-02? Can you elaborate on your short and medium-term objectives for the VICTA Program? 

Tim CHICKEN: Our short-term aim is to complete the development, trials and testing of the craft and enable a comprehensive capability demonstration for clients. Beyond that, we are keen to explore other variants - for example within the leisure sector - as well as examining the potential for an autonomous version and the possibility of an all-electric drive. But these are not yet confirmed and are all to be considered once the prototype has completed its development.

Defence Turkey: What kind of new products and capabilities do you see a demand for in the coming years in the Diver Delivery Unit market?

Tim CHICKEN: All electric drive must be a priority as users increasingly will want to move away from carbon fuels.

Defence Turkey: Have you received any orders so far? If yes, could you please share the order quantity with us? When will you start deliveries to global customers?

Tim CHICKEN: We are in conversation with an array of potential clients, but I am not in a position to divulge details at the moment.

Defence Turkey: Is VICTA an ITAR Free product?

Tim CHICKEN: We don’t anticipate ITAR being a major issue. 

Defence Turkey: Have you received any interest from the Turkish Navy in VICTA-02? Do you have any plans for a live demonstration for the Turkish Navy in 2021?

Tim CHICKEN:There has been some interest from Turkey, but I am not at liberty to describe that here. At the moment there is no plan to demonstrate the craft in Turkey, but I anticipate significant interest when we demonstrate the craft in the UK in due course. 

Defence Turkey: What can you tell us about Subsea Craft’s approach to Turkey as a market for the sale of its products? 

Tim CHICKEN: Turkey is but one of many modern states that has the capacity to employ VICTA. We would welcome any opportunity to discuss the capability with officials from the Turkish Armed Forces.

Defence Turkey: Would you like to add anything in the way of a message for our readers?

Tim CHICKEN: We would welcome any opportunity to discuss the potential offered by VICTA with interested parties in Turkey.

Defence Turkey: Tim, thank you for sharing your time with our readers.

 

You can read the compherensive article about VICTA please click on this link;

https://www.defenceturkey.com/en/content/victa-will-start-sea-trials-in-august-2021-4463