The name “Frogmen” refers historically to divers of the Italian Navy and was initially coined by sailors of the English fleet. The The WWII Italian commando divers were allegedly nicknamed this because of their green, shiny suit with large lateral fins.
Many nations and some irregular armed groups deploy or have deployed combat divers.
During WWII, their main purpose began with reconnaissance and underwater demolition of natural or man-made obstacles obstructing amphibious landings, such as Clearance Divers of the British Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navyor the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs) of the U.S Navy. These tactical diving branches became pioneers in underwater demolition, closed-circuit diving, combat diving, amphibious raids / tactics and midget submarine operations. Post WWII, UDTs continued to research techniques for underwater and shallow-water missions. One area was the use of Scuba equipment.
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Frogmen on clandestine operations use closed circuit mixed gas rebreathers, as the bubbles released by open-circuit scuba would reveal them to surface lookouts and make a noise which hydrophones could detect. In rebreather scuba, the system recycles the exhaled gas, removes carbon dioxide, and compensates for the used oxygen before the diver is supplied with gas from the breathing circuit. The amount of gas lost from the circuit during each breathing cycle depends on the design of the rebreather and depth change during the breathing cycle. Gas in the breathing circuit is at ambient pressure, and stored gas is provided through regulators or injectors, depending on design.
Other gear includes:
- Wetsuit or Drysuit.
- Dive Fins.
- Diving Mask and Snorkel.
- Scuba tank.
- Depth Gauge Submersible Pressure Gauge (SPG), Compass.
- Dive Computer.
Scope of Operations:
Tactical diving is a branch of professional diving carried out by armed forces and tactical units. They may be divided into:
- Assault divers.
- Special mission work divers who do general work underwater.
- Work divers who are trained in mine defusing and removing other explosives underwater.
*These groups may overlap, and the same may serve as assault divers and work divers. ^
The range of operations performed by these operatives includes:
- Amphibious assault: stealthy deployment of land or boarding forces. (The vast majority of combat swimmer missions are simply to get “from here to there” and arrive suitably equipped and in sufficient physical condition to fight on arrival). The deployment of tactical forces by water to assault land targets, oil platforms, or surface ship targets is a major driver behind the equipping and training of combat swimmers. The purposes are many, but include feint and deception, counter-drug, law enforcement, counter-terrorism, and counter-proliferation missions.
- Amphibious reconnaissance: Surveying a beach before a troop landing, or other forms of unauthorized underwater surveying in denied waters.
- Sabotage: This includes placing limpet mines or other explosives on vessels.
- Recovering underwater objects.
- Clandestine fitting of monitoring devices on submarine communications cables in enemy waters.
- Investigating unidentified divers, or a sonar echo that may be unidentified divers.
- Checking ships, boats, structures, and harbours for limpet mines and other sabotage; and ordinary routine maintenance in war conditions.
- Underwater mine clearance and bomb disposal.
Typically, a diver with closed circuit oxygen rebreathing equipment will stay within a depth limit of 20 feet (6.1 m) with limited deeper excursions to a maximum of 50 feet (15 m) because of the risk of seizure due to acute oxygen toxicity. However the use of nitrox or mixed gas rebreathers can extend this depth range considerably, but this may be beyond the scope of operations, depending on the unit.
Divers will often use Diver propulsion vehicles (DPVs) also known as Swimmer delivery vehicles (SDVs) to increase range underwater. A “submersible canoe” Italians successfully applied by the Italian Navy early in World War II. The official Italian name for their craft was Siluro a Lenta Corsa (SLC or “Slow-running torpedo“). The vehicle was then copied by the British when they discovered the Italian operations and called it the “Sleeping Beauty” or Motorised Submersible Canoe. The same capability was adopted by the American Underwater Demolition Teams in 1947 – It had to go through a process of iteration in order to demonstrate functional military potential – it did when their Mark VII SDV entered service in 1972.
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