Feeds

TERRORISTS IN SUBMARINES menace the Free World!

Pale, smelly peril of underwater cocaine 'Love Boat'

Build a business case: developing custom apps

We know this because of the case of the French ex-spy and his speedboat-submarine factory in Dubai

A good indication of the best possible performance in this kind of tonnage range is offered by the specifications of the "Proteus" submarine speedboat formerly offered (and in one case built) by the now defunct company Exomos of Dubai. The Proteus, designed by former French naval officer, engineer (and reportedly ex-DGSE secret agent) Herve Jaubert2, used diesel-electric propulsion. Like the other Exomos subs a Proteus could manage five knots tops while submerged and travel as much as 50 miles at slower speeds of just a few knots before conking out.

Exterior shot of the drug smuggling sub at Ecuadorean jungle 'shipyard'. Credit: DEA

Crazy old-school WWII style camouflage. Or possibly a case of designers sampling the product.

That's probably the upper performance limit for small submarines using today's technology: the Ecuadorean narco-sub is unlikely to be even that capable. The narco-boat would be able to move at a crawl fully submerged, and perhaps travel as far as 20 or 30 miles like that - but in fact this capability would be mainly for escaping from or eluding the notice of patrol boats and ordinary search aircraft, not for travelling. Almost all the distance covered on a mission would be done on diesels - as has always been the case with naval diesel-electric subs, in fact.

Interestingly, the Chronicle reports that the sub's structure is of wood and its hull of fibreglass. It's thus almost certain that it isn't a true pressure hull, but instead functions like a diving bell: compressed air is released into the interior as it descends, matching the increasing pressure outside and keeping the water out.

Such a vessel is much easier to build and much lighter than a proper pressure hull, though it means that the crew must observe the same precautions against decompression sickness ("the bends") as divers going to the same depth would. Buildup of exhaled CO2 while submerged could be handled by simply flushing through periodically with more bottled air (at the cost of some telltale bubbles rising to the surface) or the use of sodalime scrubbers - easily available nowadays as part of the rebreather apparatus popular with some sports divers, or commercially supplied for use in hyperbaric chambers3.

We also learn that the narco-sub is at least as uncomfortable for her crew as naval diesel-electric boats were/are: the periscope would have offered the only view out, and the vessel is furnished with a single toilet of unspecified type. "No apparent sleeping area or galley, but there is room to lie down", says the Chronicle. It would appear that the possible narco-smuggler or terrorist submariners of today and tomorrow are likely to be every bit as pale and unhygienic as their naval brethren.

So, would this sort of sub be useful to terrorists?

Theoretically yes. You could use it to sneak people in and out of target countries, for instance, or to deliver weapons or explosives, or to mount attacks on oil rigs or stationary ships (it would not be much use against ones underway, being too slow to intercept or keep up with them even on diesels).

But the DEA reckon it probably cost $5m to build. The narcotics cartels can find that sort of money, but they'd expect to make it back again - and more than back again. The little sub could carry cocaine that would be worth $100m at US retail prices, but of course its operators couldn't expect to get anything like that for a bulk delivery (most likely in Central America or Mexico rather than the States). It might well have required several voyages to pay for itself.

Terrorists with $5m to spend (especially with no real prospect of any financial return) seem to be extremely rare birds, and if they exist there would seem to be better things to spend the money on (it's a lot easier to attack a ship or oil rig using a helicopter than a submarine). But sure, if there are some wealthy and determined terrorists out there this is a potentially quite effective route to go down. You could easily blow up cruise liners, tankers, oil rigs, pipelines; you could mount Mumbai-style sub-borne commando raids in the heart of London or whatever - various Bond-villain style plots.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.