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The SMX-31 could be the first of a new generation of submarines.

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The Sub of the Future Is a Drone Mothership Inspired by a Sperm Whale

A French defense contractor is showing off a submarine design unlike any other. Inspired by the sperm whale, the SMX-31, also known as the “Electric,” is heavily armed and supports a wide range of unmanned vehicles, and can even function as a mothership to naval special forces. The submarine is also heavily automated, with a crew of just 15.
Unveiled at the Euronaval exhibition in Paris, SMX-31 breaks almost every convention of submarine design. The vessel lacks a conventional sail, giving it an organic, whale-like appearance—indeed, its design was influenced by the deep-diving sperm whale. It has retractable hydroplanes that fold into the hull, a hexagonal-patterned skin with built-in sensor antennas, and a pair of rim drive propulsors (pump jets) housed in the stern of the craft. 
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Internally, the sub is a two-hulled design, with a lighter outer and heavier inner hull. The ship is electrically powered, with lithium ion batteries providing a power source instead of diesel engines or a nuclear reactor. Maximum diving depth is unknown but at least 800 feet.
Electric can also act as a mothership for unmanned vehicles. It can launch unmanned aerial vehicles from a tethered launcher that floats to the surface while the submarine itself remains submerged. It will disgorge unmanned undersea vehicles from a rear hangar. SMX-31 will also accommodate underwater delivery vehicles such as the six-man Propulsor Sous-Marins 3rd Generation used by naval special forces to infiltrate coastal areas. 
    
SMX-1 carries a whopping 46 heavy torpedoes and missiles, including the F21 Artemis heavyweight torpedo and SCALP land attack cruise missile recently used in NATO air strikes against Syria. The submarine has vertical launch silos in the bow and horizontally mounted stern-mounted launch tubes. 
All of this capability is packed into a very small ship: “Electric” is just 229 feet long and displaces 3,400 tons. The submarine will be able to operate at sea for 30-45 days, depending on battery capacity, with a maximum underwater speed of 20 knots. One reason such a small submarine can do so much is that it has a crew of just 15. Submarines smaller than SMX-13 typically have crews of 60 or more. 

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