Since WW2 France has always been in the top tier of Naval Special forces adopters and maintained a ‘proper’ SDV capability during the Cold War. Defense budgets and desert distractions contributed to the loss of this capability, but things are looking brighter again for the famous Nageurs de Combat (combat swimmers). France pioneered Swimmer Delivery Vehicle (SDV) technology and adoption and was the first Navy to operate removable Dry Deck Shelters. So it was a major step backwards when they retired the last of the Agosta class submarines in 2001 and with it the world-reaching SDV capability. The SDVs they operated (termed PSM in France) were a well kept secret and they too have been retired.
In their place Commando Hubert (French Special Forces akin to SEALs) and DGSE (equiv. CIA) have leveraged the impressive but inherently more limiting Stidd DPD single-man craft. There’s a lot of good things to say about the Stidd but that is for another time. Let’s just say that they are a quantum leap over the earlier Diver Propulsion Vehicles (DPVs) and can tow a second diver but it is not the same capability as an SDV.
With the future introduction of the Barracuda Class SSNs the French Navy will regain its SDV capability. From the outset the Barracuda are designed to carry a Dry-Deck-Shelter (DDS) behind the sail. This will be larger than previous French ones and incorporate direct access into the hull so that divers can access the chamber whilst it is drained which is a massive operational advantage.
The new SDV for Commando Hubert's next SDV is the ECA SWUV (Special Warfare Underwater Vehicle) which will be known in French service as PSM3G (Propulsor Sous-Marins 3rd Generation). The company has some experience in the field as they previously supplied SDVs to French forces but that's not something you can read much about, so perhaps a topic for a future article! Back to the present, the SWUV is some 8.5m (28ft) long and carries six men, making it larger and more capable than previous French types.
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The new SWUV design is much larger than the previous types and noticeably longer than the SEAL's SDV Mk.VIII, making it too large for existing DDS':
Sphyrene and Coryphene SDVs
Wholphin X2, Dolphin X1 and Piranha SDV-X
SDV Mk.9 SEAL Delivery Vehicle
Cos.Mo.S CE4F 4-man SDV
Proteus advanced SDV
SWSC (Shallow Water Combat Submersible) US Navy SEALs next gen' SDV
SubSEAL advanced SDV
Marex Type-A (A2, A4, A5, Comex Total-Sub-01) SDVs
EMT FWS-1 to -5 Barracuda SDVs