Designed and built in Portsmouth, the £10m Victa prototype has been hailed by its owner as the ‘world’s first operational surface-submersible’.
Sea trials started at Subsea Craft’s new base at the Ben Ainslie Racing building in Old Portsmouth on Thursday.
If successful, the boat will enable naval frogmen to travel 250 nautical miles on the surface before diving underwater for a further 25 in secret.
Chief executive Scott Verney said he was delighted the work is being carried out in Portsmouth in the ‘heart of maritime heritage’, having moved to The Camber three months ago.
The company still maintains a presence in Penner Road, Havant.
Mr Verney said: ‘Portsmouth is the heart of maritime heritage for us.
‘Being right on the water, being near the heritage itself gives us that visibility.
‘We’re recruiting, we’re building, we’re growing and we’re making something that is globally-leading, which hopefully brings real kudos to the city.’
Mr Verney, from Petersfield, said that Subsea is ‘really pleased’ with its new location in Old Portsmouth.
‘The sustainability of us as a maritime technology business in Portsmouth is really important,’ he added.
‘Not just from a jobs perspective, but also long-term bringing global high-tech to the area. This is for the long term, it’s high-tech and it’s maritime, and it’s in the heart of the maritime city.’
The 12-metre craft can accommodate eight divers and travel up to 40 knots (46mph) with its 533kW engine.
It can then dive within two minutes and travel underwater, meaning it is ideal for releasing or picking up divers discreetly
While well suited to being used on military missions, it could also be used for research or leisure purposes and in the offshore wind industry.
The company says it will collaborate with clients to make sure each craft is built to match their needs. Each one will cost roughly £10m.
Subsea Craft, which employs 30 people, including several forces’ veterans, says it is hoping to take on more staff.
Mr Verney said: ‘Being in Portsmouth and being able to grow and recruit our own is great.
‘We’re going to build loads of her, and we can’t do it with the 30 people we’ve got so we will definitely be growing over the next two to three years, and we’ve taken on space, this space is much bigger than what we need right now, precisely because we’re going to be growing.’
The firm aims to collaborate with local businesses and groups wherever possible.
As well as Ben Ainslie Racing, it has worked with manufacturers AC Marine and Composites in Gosport to build Victa’s hull, and plans to work with Big Crocodile, a sports clothing manufacturer in Anmore Road, Waterlooville, to create T-shirts.
Mr Verney said: ‘Every opportunity we get to go local, we’ll go local.’
The trials have started looking at the craft’s equilibrium and buoyancy, and will then move on to testing its digital capabilities while in the water before sub-surface and other tests begin next year. They are scheduled to be done by the end of March.
It will soon work with the University of Portsmouth as part of the Knowledge Transfer Partnership, a partly government-funded programme which encourages collaboration between businesses and universities in the UK. The partnership will aim to bring new skills to the business and relevant academic thinking.