Diving Equipment Used by Navy SEALs

Atlantic Ocean, May 5, 2005 - A member of the SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team prepares to launch one of the team's SEAL Delivery Vehicles (SDV) from the back of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Philadelphia (SSN-690) on a training exercise.
U.S. Navy diver shown underwater. (Image: Stocktrek Images/Stocktrek Images/Getty Images)

Navy SEALs are elite members of the United States Navy Sea, Air and Land special operations force. While trained to operate above and below water, the unit is best known for its underwater capabilities. Specialized dive equipment enables the SEALs to work effectively in ocean and fresh water combat situations.

Wetsuits

Two standard wetsuits are used by the Navy SEALs. A camouflage wetsuit used by U.S. combat divers is designed to conceal the wearer above and below water. The second military wetsuit is specific to the U.S. Navy SEALs. It is a black suit with a horizontal front zip and a hood. The hood contains an earphone pocket for communication equipment.

Boots

Navy SEALs wear different types of dive boots depending on the current operation. Standard dive boots have a rounded toe with heel and toe support. Divers wear heavier boots when extra foot protection is required, particularly if they will be walking over sharp rocks. According to SpecwarGear.com, these “work boots” dry quickly, are self-draining and they float. SEALs can wear dive fins over the boots.

SCUBA Gear

Navy SEALs use self-contained underwater breathing apparatus, or SCUBA, breathing systems for standard dives. The diver carries the bulky air tank on his back. SCUBA gear uses an open-circuit system, meaning that the diver expels the air into the surrounding water. This creates bubbles, a negative aspect of SCUBA systems as the bubbles could give away the diver’s position.

Rebreathers

Rebreathers are small, closed-circuit breathing systems that do not expel air into the water. Navy SEALs use two types of rebreathers. The LAR V Draeger runs on 100 percent oxygen, and the unit filters carbon dioxide from the exhaled air. The elimination of bubbles makes the Draeger ideal for clandestine amphibious operations, says the American Special Ops website. However, the unit has a maxim depth of 70 feet, much less than SCUBA equipment. The MK 15 and MK 16 Closed Circuit Mixed Gas Rebreathers are similar to the Draeger, but an enhanced gas mix allows divers to reach depths of approximately 1,800 feet.

Waterproof Packs

Waterproof rucksacks allow Navy SEALs to carry vital equipment to depths of about 70 feet without the contents getting wet. Watertight zipper seals prevent leakage. The packs also contain buoyancy control systems. Divers use waterproof utility pouches for carrying smaller loads.

Navigation Equipment

Navy SEALs use underwater navigation boards for combat dives. Each handheld board integrates a depth gauge, dive chronometer and an underwater compass. If the board is too bulky for any given mission, divers can carry depth gauges, chronometers and compasses individually, normally strapped around the wrist or attached to the dive suit.

Dive Fins And Masks

Standard Navy SEAL dive fins and diving masks are similar to standard retail versions. However, combat divers also use the military Full Face Mask. This mask gives the wearer extra face protection and functions well in polluted waters.

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