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The SEALs want their divers going deeper and wirelessly networked

May 18, 2017 (Photo Credit: Chief Photographer's Mate Andrew McKaskle/U.S. Navy)
TAMPA, Fla. — U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command wants SEALs to be wirelessly networked and communicating clearly at ever-deeper depths, and to pass information to operators both over the horizon and on the beach.

NSW is sending its divers further beneath the surface, which means divers need to breathe a mixture of helium and oxygen. That means divers' voices become high-pitched and distorted, making it difficult for them to understand each other and even harder for operators elsewhere to hear.

“As our efforts expand and our diving continues to get deeper and deeper, we need you guys to think about is a normal comms system and put it into a helium-type environment so when we are diving [with] mixed gas, we have the ability to communicate back and forth between the divers in the water column,” Jim Knudson, who leads NSW's combat diver program, said in front of a group of industry experts at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference.

Knudson said those comms need to be networked between the divers, equipped with speech unscramblers so they can hear each other clearly and integrated with navigation systems so operators elsewhere on the battlefield can track their movements and communications.

The program is also looking to get its SEALs to go further in the water, and it's looking into underwater jet boots to get the job done.

Controlling operator fatigue has been a key theme in the conference this year. Knudson’s jet boots is just one of the ideas to limit exhaustion so that combat divers from across the world of U.S. Special Operations Command can be at peak performance when they get to their objective.

On Tuesday,  Ben Chitty, senior project manager for biomedical, human performance and canine portfolios in the science and technology office at SOCOM, said his directorate is looking at both ways to increase the physical performance of operators who are already at peak fitness and the possibility of performance-enhancing drugs to the get the job done.

Among the concerns he was looking to address was in regard to combat divers, who might swim underwater for hours without access to food and water, and be expected to fight at peak condition when they arrive at the objective.
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