US Navy installs submarine rescue system aboard HOS Dominator

Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System (SRDRS) installed aboard Military Sealift Command-chartered merchant vessel HOS Dominator. Photo: US Navy

The U.S. Navy has installed a submarine rescue diving and recompression system (SRDRS) aboard the submarine support vessel HOS Dominator at Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI) in Coronado, California.

Members of Undersea Rescue Command (URC), based at NASNI, and contractors from Phoenix Holdings International, completed the SRDRS installation aboard the Military Sealift Command-chartered merchant vessel on April 27.

The navy said this was the first time it has fully assembled the SRDRS with transfer under pressure (TUP) capability aboard HOS Dominator.

“It’s one of only a handful of mobile rescue systems in the world,” said Cmdr. Mark Hazenberg, URC’s commanding officer. “It’s able to be rapidly deployed and can assist in rescues of numerous foreign submarines in addition to our own.”

The SRDRS is the U.S. Navy’s only deep submarine rescue system and is designed to recover sailors from a disabled submarine that may be too deep for submarine escape. The TUP capability will allow submarine sailors to move safely from a pressurized compartment aboard a disabled submarine to a recompression chamber aboard the rescue ship to begin decompression.

The SRDRS replaced the vessels Mystic and Avalon, two previous rescue submarines, as the primary deep sea rescue asset for submariners.

SRDRS is designed for quick worldwide deployment in the event of a submarine accident and is transportable by truck, aircraft, or ship. The SRDRS is a tethered, remotely operated vehicle that is placed into the water and attaches to a disabled submarine’s hatch. At an accident site, the SRDRS works with a “mother ship” and can embark up to 16 rescued personnel plus two internal attendants.

“The navy currently only has a rescue capability and it’s being integrated with a TUP so that submarine sailors have a decompression obligation that they’ll be able to accommodate through a series of decompression chambers,” said Matt Walters, principal engineer for Oceaneering Technologies.

HOS Dominator is a Hornbeck Offshore-owned vessel contracted by the Navy to provide a vessel of opportunity for URC to use and operate its systems at sea for training and proficiency.

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