Global Need to Develop Submarine Escape and Rescue Systems

by OldSailor on June 17, 2008



Every country wants to build up and strengthen its submarine arm. What is the reason ?

  • Firstly, to ensure energy security. At present many countries meet their energy requirements by import of oil. As the oil is transported through the seas (more than 90 percent of world trade is through the seas), the competition to have control over the seas and to protect their energy sources by different countries is on the rise.
  • Secondly, every country wants to have high precision second strike capabilities in case of nuclear attacks.
  • Both of these are possible only through submarines and that too with nuclear powered and nuclear armed submarines. This is the reason for the increase in number of submarines in the oceans.

As the number of submarines operating in the oceans are increasing, the possibilities of accidents taking place in the submarines are also increasing.

In case of submarine accidents:

  • How the crew in the submarines are going to be rescued ?
  • In case of nuclear powered submarines, how the nuclear radiation is going to be monitored and how the marine debris is going to be handled ?

Here comes the requirement to have Submarine Escape and Rescue Systems (SERS). Also International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office (ISMERLO) an international co-coordinating authority is available. ISMERLO came into existence after Exercise SORBET ROYAL in 2002 and is located in Norfolk, Virginia. ISMERLO ensures that one of the world’s several rescue systems is available to be deployed at short notice.

Some of the interesting features of SERS:

  • SERS need highly trained personnel and highly specialized and expensive equipment.
  • Very few countries in the world only have the expertise on SERS.
  • SERS need easy handling and transportation by road and sea.

Here are some of the important SERS available.

Further periodically submarine escape and rescue exercises are conducted. In the recent Exercise Bold Monarch 2008 Russia took part.

Here are some photographs

NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS)


Submarine Rescue Diving Recompression System (SRDRS) of USA


Russian AS-34




All the above photographs are from Bold Monarch 08.

Here are the other global SERS. Here are some video clips available on SERS.

Here is a video clip of Russian AS-34 seen in NATO historic submarine rescue exercise.

Here is a video clip on Submarine Escape Tank Training(SETT) and a video clip on UKSPG here.

Also here is a video clip on Atmospheric Diving System (ADS) suit.

Update: June 18

Even all developed countries operating nuclear powered submarines don’t have expertise to scrap decommissioned nuclear powered submarines. Russia is willing to help out. Read more from rusnavy.

Update: September 20

The U.S Navy’s Deep Submergence Unit tested a new system known as the Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System (SRDRS) with the Chilean submarine CS Simpson (SS-21) on September 17-18. Read more from U.S Navy.

Update: September 21

Submarine Escape Set (SES) developed by DRDO for use up to 100 metres depth has completed user trials by the Indian Navy and the Navy is planning to induct for use. Read more from DRDO.

Update: October 03

U.S Navy: The Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System’s (SRDRS) Rescue Capable System (RCS) replaced the Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle Mystic (DSRV-1) as the U.S. Navy’s deep-submergence submarine rescue asset on September 30.

SRDRS is a rapidly deployable rescue asset that can be delivered by air or ground, installed on pre-screened military or commercial vessels of opportunity (VOO) via a ship interface template, and mated to a distressed submarine within a 72-hour time to first rescue period. SRDRS will be based at San Diego and operated by the Navy’s Deep Submergence Unit. Read more from U.S.Navy.

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