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Richard Branson reveals $662K fighter jet-inspired submarine

Richard Branson reveals $662K fighter jet-inspired submarine

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Virgin billionaire Richard Branson lifted the curtain on his latest toy, a $660,000 airplane-inspired submarine that some call an "underwater plane."

When you're the 261st richest billionaire in the world and own an airline, record label, mobile phone company, luxury restaurants and an island -- yes, a Caribbean island -- what do you buy for yourself?

If you're Sir Richard Branson, you buy yourself what could very well be called an underwater plane.

Branson recently unveiled to the UK Daily Mail his latest toy, a $662,000 prototype deep-sea submersible called the "Necker Nymph" -- it's named after Branson's own Necker Island -- that can dive to depths of up to 130 ft.

Why an "underwater plane," then? Designed and built by Graham Hawkes of San Francisco-based Hawkes Ocean Technologies, the Deep Flight Merlin submersible is the first of its kind in that it glides through the water like a plane flies in the air.

The sub's individual 'wind shields' remove the pressure of slipstream and thus allow for an open cockpit that offers panoramic views. Inspired by a fighter jet, it's controlled by a joystick and uses downward lift, not ballast, to move through the water.

The "hydrobatic" craft is designed to dive to scuba depths in tropical waters and can carry a pilot and two visitors on a two-hour trip. It can also make 360-degree turns.

Keeping with Branson's priority on renewable energy, the sub also has low light and noise emissions to keep from harming coral reefs and other ocean ecosystems.

Interested? The Nymph is available to hire for $25,000 a week -- that is, after you've spent at least $88,000 for seven nights on Branson's luxury catamaran, the Necker Belle.

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure