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Submarine Rescue System heads to Norway for major exercise

9 February 2017
Elements of the world-class NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS) were deployed from its headquarters at HM Naval Base Clyde recently, and moved in a huge logistical exercise to Prestwick airport for transport onwards to Norway.

It was all part of Exercise Northern Sun, designed to test the mobilisation of the NSRS and exercise its capabilities in the frigid waters off Norway. 

The system, which is jointly-owned by the UK, France and Norway, is in three main parts – an Intervention Remotely Operated Vehicle (IROV), a Submarine Rescue Vehicle (SRV), and the Transfer Under Pressure System (TUP). 

For the next four-weeks or so the system, and the Faslane-based crew who operate it, will be put through their paces, but first was the not inconsiderable challenge of moving the sophisticated kit!

This quick response time is vital in their life-saving mission to save stricken submariners.

On Wednesday, January 25, the last piece of the puzzle – the Submarine Rescue Vehicle – rolled-out of HM Naval Base Clyde on the back of a Galt transport lorry.

Some 25 trucks were used to transport all the equipment to Prestwick airport where it was unloaded and then re-packed into the back of giant C17 and Antonov aircraft. 

Flights to Norway followed, after which the system was once again unloaded, placed onto yet more trucks and driven to a waiting Norwegian Coastguard “mother-ship”.

The truly staggering part is that the NSRS can be transported anywhere in the world within just 72-hours – a target time which the team have practiced, and achieved, during training exercises with 23 different submarines in eleven countries. 

This quick response time is vital in their life-saving mission to save stricken submariners. 

The tri-nation NSRS was introduced in 2006, is based at the Home of the UK Submarine Service at HM Naval Base Clyde, and project managed on behalf of the three nations from MOD Abbey Wood in Bristol.

In the highly unlikely event of a sinking incident involving a submarine the IROV would be first to deploy with the aim of getting to the stricken vessel within the first 52-hours. 

The small, remote-controlled, vehicle can then be used to deliver vital supplies to the submarine and prepare the way for the next stage – the SRV.

The Submarine Rescue Vehicle has the ability to dive to a stranded submarine, engage with the vessel’s escape hatch and begin the gradual process of ferrying the crew off the vessel to the waiting TUP system.

From the outside the 360 tonne Transfer Under Pressure system resembles a series of giant shipping containers, but its actual purpose is to cleanse the rescued crew from contaminants and crucially, re-compress the oxygen-saturated sailors. 

Expert Royal Navy Divers from the Clyde-based Northern Diving Group operate this part of the system.

Exercise Northern Sun is set to continue until mid-February.

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