Submarine Escape and Rescue

When submerged, submarines may be subject to enemy action, mechanical failure, collision and other accidents that mean it is immobilised and unable to surface. Escape and Rescue are key capabilities. NATO maintains a 24x7 globally deployable submarine rescue capability, based in Scotland.

When submerged, submarines may be subject to enemy action, mechanical failure, collision and other accidents that mean it is immobilised and unable to surface. Escape and Rescue are key capabilities.

In 1939, the Royal Navy suffered a very high number of casualties from HMS Thetis, the first video sets the scene for submarine rescue, sobering stuff. HMS Affray was the last British submarine casualty, in 1951. The second video shows the state of the art nearly 50 years ago. The Historic Naval Ships Association has a good page on Escape Procedures from the O Class Submarines, click here to view.

There was also the well known Russian submarine loss, the Kursk.

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This is a look at Royal Navy and NATO rescue and escape capabilities

Self Escape

Submarines are equipped with their own escape sets to allow personnel to leave the submarine without external assistance using an escape chamber or compartment.

The image below shows an older Mk9 Escape Suit.

Escape Suit Mk9RFD Beaufort Limited in Birkenhead have been supplying submarine escape suits to the naval forces of the world for decades, now part of the Survitec Group, they continue to enhance the ‘state of the art’.

Describing them as a suit is underselling them because, with the advent of the Mk10, RFD Beaufort integrated a single person liferaft and extensive hypothermia protection into the design

The Mk10 has been in service with the Royal Navy for many years, the image below shows a US Navy one on the surface, although the BFA (now Survitec) Solandri

SSIE Mk10The Mk10 equipment has been replaced in the Royal Navy with the BFA Solandri system from Survitec.

The system is designed to sustain the wearer on the surface for 24 hours and includes water, emergency rations, heat packs and signalling equipment.

SSIE SolandriThe Astute class submarines have a two man escape tower called the Logistic Escape Tower (LET) aft and a Forard Escape Tower (FET), not surprisingly, at the pointed end!.

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In 2012 both were validated during an exercise, click here for more information.

Every submariner must pass the escape course.

The Royal Navy has a 30m Submarine Escape Training Tank (SETT) at Gosport, an impressive installation.

Pressurised escape training at SETT ceased in 2009, the Royal Navy taking the decision in light of the emerging submersible rescue vehicle capability and an examination of risk, although other naval forces continue to maintain pressurised escape training facilities. All diving ceased at SETT in 2013.

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By accident (honest) I found this video of the fetish scene making use of a RFD Submarine Escape Suit (safe for work link), of course, when you spend your working day in tight trunks and a dressing gown, one can understand!

Self-escape is the least preferred escape option and would only be carried out in extreme circumstances such as on onboard fire, total flooding or radiation leak.

Submarine Rescue

If the personnel cannot self-evacuate they will need to be rescued and obviously, time is of the essence. The UK and NATO maintain two important capabilities to provide external assistance to a stricken or disabled submarine; submarine rescue.

Submarine Parachute Assistance Group (SPAG)

This is a Royal Navy rapid deployment capability that was formed in 1971 in order to provide a rapid worldwide response to submarines in peril. Held at 6 hours notice to move their primary task is to rapidly deploy and provide expert assistance to the disabled/distressed submarine, or ‘DISSUB’.

The group comprises approximately 30 personnel, all trained for submarine rescue and parachute insertion. Equipment includes inflatable boats, life rafts, specialist communication equipment, rations/water and medical supplies. All of this equipment, even including the inflatable boats, can be parachute dropped.

After establishing communications with the stricken submarine the SPAG might establish a life raft group, work with others or coordinate an escape, if rescue by the rescue submersible is not possible, for whatever reason.

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Moody SPAG Shot

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The videos above show the 22ft Steerable Static Line (22’ SSL) parachute Static Line Square (SLS) equipment being used.

Members of the SPAG wear the RN parachute badge although there have been all sorts of wailing and gnashing of teeth within the airborne fraternity about wings being worn, click here to see what I mean. A recent Parliamentary Question and Answer confirmed that due to members of SPAG not having completed an arduous training course they cannot wear parachute wings.

The Royal Navy Fleet Diving Unit, Royal Air Force and Royal Logistic Corps also provide specialist support to SPAG.

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The NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS)

The NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS) is a personnel rescue system for submariners in peril, co-owned by the partner nations (France, Norway and the U.K.) and managed by James Fisher Defence (JFD).

The concept for a submarine rescue system reportedly came from an ex Royal Navy submariner named Roger Chapman. Whilst laying telephone cables in a small two-man submersible off the coast of South West Ireland they became stranded and were only rescued after a tense three-day stay on the bottom.

NSRS replaced a UK specific capability that used a Perry Slingsby LR5 submersible with a newly designed SR class submersible and supporting systems.

Submarine Rescue Submersibles

The winning consortium was led by Rolls Royce and included Babcock, Perry Slingsby, Divex, Lloyds, Kongsberg, Interpower and a number of others.

Commenting on the £47 million contract award in 2004, Lord Bach said;

This system will give us and our partners the most effective submarine rescue system available. The system will primarily support the three partner nations but will be on standby to assist any nation anywhere in the world.

The operating concept is deceptively simple, the intervention ROV is flown out and operated from almost any ship to establish initial context and carry out a situation assessment.

If rescue is viable, the larger rescue submersible and portable launch and recovery system is then flown out and fitted to a suitable vessel such as an offshore supply or engineering ship. Working in conjunction with the ROV, personnel will be recovered and transferred under pressure on the parent ship to a decompression chamber. Once on board, personnel can be medically assessed and treated as required.

Nato Submarine Rescue System (SRS)All components are road transportable and air portable by C17 or A400.

Intervention Class Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV)

The remotely operated vehicle (ROV) is used to locate the submarine in trouble, clear debris and deliver emergency stores pods.

Supplied by Perry Slingsby (now Forum Energy Technologies), the Triton SP ROV is a standard Intervention Class ROV (IROV) of a type in widespread use in the offshore energy sector. A new capability for the NSRS SRV and ROV was an ability to carry stores pods that can be directly passed through the submarine escape hatch without diver intervention. These pressurised pods can contain a variety of emergency supplies weighing up to 25kg such as food, water, oxygen candles or CO2 scrubbers.

Submarine Rescue ROV Triton

The baseline response time for the intervention ROV is 56 hours based on a 6-hour notice to move from receipt of the DISSUB notification.

Kongsberg designed and delivered the control and communication systems, supplementing the traditional through water communications with a Rolls Royce umbilical fibre optic cable. On the mothership, high-quality video and other telemetry information can be received and used to support the rescue.

More recent developments have seen the ROV fitted with a remote atmosphere sampler and underwater communications equipment, the TELSON emergency underwater telephone from Sonistics.

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DISSUB Atmosphere Sampler and Underwater Telephone[/tab] [tab title=”Underwater Telephone Video”]

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Portable Launch and Recovery System (PLARS)

The Portable Launch and Recovery System (PLARS) was designed and built by IHC Engineering in South Shields and is a particularly innovative element of the overall system. Fundamental to all the NSRS components is weight reduction, every component has to be air portable to allow rapid global deployment. With this in mind, the PLARS is a modular system that can be broken down into transportable sections and assembled on the host vessel.

When assembled, it can launch and recover the Submersible Rescue Vehicle in Sea State 6 without requiring any diver support, an important safety advantage. Using a sliding table and modular connectors it provides a pressurised route in the decompression chambers, assembled behind the PLARS.

The 100 tonne PLARS has a working load rating of 30 tonnes and for transport, is packed into seven 40ft ISO containers.

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The NSRS control centre maintains a continual track of available and suitable ‘vessels of opportunity’ that can be chartered for use with PLARS.

Submersible Rescue Vehicle (SRV)

Christened ‘Nemo’ by the pilots who operate it, the SRV is 30 a tonne manned submersible vessel from Perry Slingsby can dive to depths of up to 610 metres and evacuate up to 16 people at a time. Its 17 kW h sodium/nickel chloride Zebra batteries provide power and life support is enough for 12 hours of normal use, 96 hours in emergencies.

The SRV can mate with the disabled submarine at angles up to 60 degrees.

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Transfer Under Pressure System

The TUP(Transfer Under Pressure) system, designed and built by Divex, is a portable decompression and medical support unit that allows rescuees to leave the SRV without decompressing, freeing the SRV to quickly dive again. It can be used to treat 84 people with a maximum pressure of 6 Ba and best of all, fully containerised.

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The complete system is containerised, the container integration completed by G3

A 2 man portable system is also used for helicopter medical evacuation.

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In 2013 a contract note was published advertising a possible future in-service support contract for NSRS;

The Authority is considering establishing a Contract for delivery of in service-support of the NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS) for a period of five years from July 2015, plus 3 option years. The service and operation required shall be delivered within the existing infrastructure arrangement, currently at the HQ based at HMNB Clyde. The Authority may be willing to consider a move to an alternate location providing value for money, and no loss of system availability can be demonstrated.

The NSRS is a globally deployable submarine rescue system currently operated under a Government Owned Contractor Operated (GOCO) arrangement. NSRS primary objective is to provide a world-wide, continuously available and sustainable capability to rescue personnel in the event of the sinking of a Participant Nation submarine.

The Project is tri-national; United Kingdom, France and Norway form the Partner Nations. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Partner Nations committing to the equitable contribution to the cost of the support and operation of the NSRS until 2032. The Partner Nations (PNs), United Kingdom, France and Norway, have procured the NSRS in order to have the capability to rescue a crew from a Distressed Submarine. In addition, to direct the operational deployment of the NSRS, they have established a joint committee, the International Project Executive Committee (IPEC), to act as a single, unified supervisory body.

NSRS consists of several key components, together they make up the most capable deployable submarine rescue system available.

These key components are:

a) The Submarine Rescue Vehicle (SRV) is capable of lifting up to 12 survivors from a DISSUB at 610m and inclined at an angle of as much as 60 degrees. Powered by innovative Zebra batteries, its maximum speed, endurance and manoeuvrability ensure high confidence in its ability to conduct rescues in all probable situations.

b) Portable Launch and Recovery System (PLARS). The PLARS breaks down for transport (by road and air) and can be reassembled on a suitably prepared ship in a few hours. It is capable of launching and recovering the SRV in up to 5m sea height.

c) The Transfer Under Pressure System (TUP). The TUP accepts survivors from the SRV at an elevated pressure and returns them to surface pressure. It consists of two large recompression chambers and supporting equipment, capable of being broken down for transport (by road and air).

d) The Intervention System (IS). A separate self-contained sub system of the NSRS centred around a capable Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). The IS will arrive on scene first and prepare the DISSUB for the rescue and maintain survivable conditions therein.

e) Supporting Equipment. Various containerised equipments support the NSRS and they provide electrical power, spares, workshops, communications, tracking and navigation. All are air transportable and capable of rapid deployment and assembly.[/box]

Estimated value of the 5+3 year contract was between £20m and £40m.

Early in 2014 QinetiQ conducted a fatigue and fracture mechanics assessment of the rescue submersible which included a stress life assessment of the welded joints on the pressure hull. This assessment concluded that the joints would only require visual inspections, rather than pressure testing which would have needed the vehicle to be out of service for a number of months. The findings were accepted by Lloyds Register and the UK MOD Naval Authority.

This support contract was eventually let in 2015, to JFD (formerly James Fisher Defence) for £12.1 million. It was called the NSRS Second In Service Support (2ISS) period, JFD beating competitive bids from Rolls Royce and Phoenix International (who manage the US Navy system)

Because JFD also operates submarine rescue services for Singapore and Australia, the Australian contract using the LR5 submersible and supporting equipment, training and operational improvements opportunities may be exploited. JFD also support submarine rescue systems for the Republic of Korea and Sweden, and will be supplying a complete system to India in the next couple of years.

For Australia, the LR-5 is getting old and so Project Sea 1354 Phase 1 Submarine Rescue will seek to deliver a replacement capability.

In March 2016, JFD were awarded a £193 million contract to deliver two submarine rescue submersibles and associated services for the Indian Navy

Exercises and Deployments

No capability can be said to be effective until it has been tested through rigorous and realistic exercises or actual deployment.

The AS-28 Priz

In 2005, the intervention ROV was deployed to Kamchatka to help a stricken Russian submersible.

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UK Submarine Rescue deployment Priz

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Exercise Golden Arrow

Exercise Golden Arrow was one of many deployment exercises designed to provide assurance that NSRS was globally deployable by air. The complete system left Faslane on 28 articulated trucks and was loaded onto 2 C17’s and 3 Antonov AN-124 in the UK and flown to Norway. From there it was transported to the support vessel and deployed in exercise conditions.

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Nato Submarine Rescue System deployment C17 01

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Brian Grant, Base Manager for the NSRS, said:

This is the final tick in the box so that Rolls-Royce, who operates the system, can prove to their customer – the Ministry of Defence – that they’ve got a working system that can be deployed anywhere.cWe train constantly and are looking forward to arriving in Bergen for the next stage of the exercise.

After being fitted to a rescue vessel (Rem Star) it was sailed back to the UK in March 2011.

Other Exercises

The system is subject to regular deployment exercises with the partner nations and many other submarine forces.

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Read more about the NATO exercise Dynamic Monarch 2014 here

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Change Date Change Record
 01/03/2017 initial issue
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September 13, 2016 4:00 am

very good :)
i develop an image processing algorithm for under water in Persian golf, i like to use my research in rescue navy vehicle.
can u help me .
best regards….

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