If you have enough spare change for your own bespoke submarine, you can probably afford one kitted out like a luxury private jet. That seems to be the logic behind Ocean Submarine's Neyk line of submersibles. The Netherlands-based startup is offering a 19-m (63-ft)-long, 100-ton underwater vessel capable of carrying up to 12 passengers in an airplane-style cabin complete with leather seats, a full bar, galley, and library. Or is it?
The Neyk submarine sounds like an updated Jules Verne vision. According to the company, the boat is the result of eight years of work in collaboration with engineering luminaries including Rolls-Royce, MTU, and Bosch. The streamlined, tear-drop shaped craft is built out of HY-80 steel using a modular construction and a NASA design, allowing it to plunge to depths of up to 150 m (500 ft) and speeds of 15 knots (17 mph, 28 km/h) thanks to two 100-kW outboard electric motor pods powered by batteries or a "Rolls-Royce 4000 U83" (sic) diesel generator on the surface.
Inside, the Neyk is positively decadent compared to other tourist submarines. The passenger cabin is as wide as a Gulfstream jet's, with six large acrylic viewing ports. According to Ocean Submarine, the options include large leather seats complete with seatbelts, large tables, disappearing flat-screen televisions, a head with a marble-topped cabinet, a gallery complete with crystal drinkware, a library, and even a diver airlock, if desired.
Above the cabin is the cockpit where the pilot and copilot sit side by side as they operate the fly-by-wire controls and view their surrounds through the large airplane-style panoramic view ports that allow wide visibility to the sides and above. The nose of the Neyk can even be replaced with a 270-degree acrylic dome for observing the wonders of the deep.
The company says that the Neyk is super maneuverable with the ability to turn on its own axis in a matter of seconds, and has bow and stern thrusters as well as vertical thrusters for hovering and precise station keeping. It can also dive very quickly because its control surfaces are "ten times more effective than the conventional cruciform design." When you get tired of underwater activities, you can drop the tripod undercarriage and roll the submarine under its own power up onto a convenient beach.
Ocean Submarine claims this remarkable craft was designed with the "expertise and stringent requirements of the Royal Netherlands Navy" and not only offers it as a private luxury toy, but also as a commercial version with robotic manipulators that is capable of diving to 3,000 ft (915 m), a commercial version for carrying up to 40 tourists on day excursions, and a navy version that is ultra quiet, can be fitted with a wide array of sonar and other sensors, be used for special forces operations, and mount "all types of torpedo's (sic) or mines and missiles."
"My experiences convinced me that we could develop a unique new submarine in partnership with experts from every branch of aviation and underwater vessels," says Ocean Submarine founder Martin van Eijk. "The project began in 2009 based on a hull that would be suitable for the Navy and coastguard services as well as the luxury market. Having built up considerable expertise in aircraft, spaceships and underwater vessels, my goal was to combine this with the wealth of know-how available in the world today. The result is a new generation of submarines featuring a single multipurpose hull, offering a unique level of luxury and experience in a submarine."
This is a truly remarkable list of capabilities and Ocean Submarines says the Neyk has already undergone extensive testing, including high-speed towing tank tests and deep water towing tank tests. The company also claims the Neyk comes in variants up to 24 m (79 ft) as well as a 9 m (30 ft) tender version.
However, for all its claims, there's a large question mark regarding the Neyk. Though the first submarine is supposed to be completed in January 2018, the company has only released renderings instead of images of the actual craft or the tests or production. Also, the renderings and even the descriptions of the Neyk on Ocean Submarine's web sites raise many questions about the design.
For example, the Neyk is only roughly cylindrical with a boxy cross section amidships. Worse, it has an airplane-style cockpit riding on top. Without getting into too much detail, for a submarine to operate at the depths claimed for Neyk, it must have either a spherical or some form of cylindrical hull with a uniform cross section to distribute outside pressure evenly. Even if we disregard every other consideration, this boxy shape with a cockpit on top connected to the passenger cabin couldn't hold up over much more than a couple of atmospheres of pressure at most. And those irregular windows in the cockpit probably wouldn't hold up at all.
In addition, the company claims that it's possible to swap out the nose with an acrylic dome. Perhaps, but that's a major compromise of the hull. It's not just a matter of taking out one component and swapping in another, it requires a complete redesign of the hull to replace half an inch of steel with a seven-in (18-cm) thick piece of plastic. As for retractable wheels for rolling on beaches, how such a system could be installed inside a pressure hull (let alone even work) raises all manner of questions.
And then there's the lack of very basic systems. Looking at the X-ray rendering, there are no ballast tanks, trim tanks, high pressure air systems, life support systems, fuel tanks, or even mechanisms for operating the hydroplanes or rudders, which seem bolted to the hull. In addition, the electric propulsion pods situated in front of the rear hydroplanes on a submarine are an invitation to turbulence and cavitation, the sail (popularly called a conning tower) seems to serve no function, and there doesn't seem enough room inside the hull for the features advertised.
But the biggest head scratcher is the interior. Ocean Submarines has provided a number of alleged images of the inside of the Neyk that are lifted from other vessels made by other companies. The cockpit is a photoshopped image of the cockpit of an Airbus airliner just blurry enough that no instrument labels can be read, the passenger cabin and galley are images of a Gulstream G650ER executive jet, the head (with shower!) is from a Lineage 1000E luxury jet, the engine room is from a Mangusta 132 motor yacht, and the observation dome interior is from a SY-6 Submarine.
Add to this the company's claim that it can mass produce these subs five at a time, and the questions keep coming. In an effort to clear things up, we tried to contact the company to ask about the price of the Neyk and requested production images to gauge the veracity of its claims, but so far, we've received no response.
It is entirely possible, of course, that Ocean Submarine is simply playing its cards very close to its chest and is holding back details and relying on renderings as a way of keeping the real submarine a secret until its released. Or it may have presented early conceptual images and descriptions that haven't been updated yet. Such things have been known to occur.
Hopefully, as the new year approaches, we will learn if the Nyek is truly as revolutionary as it seems or if this is a late April Fools gag.