UK hosts NATO submarine rescue exercise

Photo: Royal Navy

Submarine rescue specialists from France, Norway and the United Kingdom gathered at HM Naval Base Clyde to take part in a NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS) training exercise.

Over 110 people participated in the week-long event – the largest evacuation exercise ever to be planned at Faslane – bringing together military and civilian staff including submariners, divers, medics and Babcock personnel.

The NSRS, which is jointly owned by France, Norway and the UK, is in three main parts – an intervention remotely operated vehicle (IROV), a submarine rescue vehicle (SRV), and the transfer under pressure system (TUP). The system is based and operated out of HM Naval Base Clyde.

A speedy response time is vital in the saving of lives and with the system available to be transported anywhere in the world within a 72-hour timescale, it is important that this response is tested on a regular basis.

This annual mass evacuation exercise – MASSEVEX – brings together all the partner nations to test the system and performance and provides an opportunity for the operating staff, medical staff, divers and pilots to meet and exchange their knowledge and experiences to enhance their collective capability and effectiveness.

Maître Thomas of the French Navy said: “This is my first time attending an exercise of this scale and it has been a good experience, training with the other nations is an excellent way of sharing knowledge and learning from the experience of others. I look forward to being involved in similar exercises in the future.”

As well as the partner nations, medical officers from the US Navy attended to observe the scenario-led training with the aim of developing relationships and sharing knowledge. Their attendance is valuable as the US have their own similar submarine rescue systems and there is a mutual agreement that each rescue system will provide back-up to the other if required.

Commander Chris Baldwin, NSRS Operations Officer said: “The NATO Submarine Rescue System is a unique tri-national capability, with it’s base here in HMNB Clyde and it is an absolute pleasure for me to be in the role of the Operations Officer of this world leading rescue system.

The NATO Submarine Rescue System is available to respond to a stricken submarine anywhere in the world. The equipment can be transported by road or air before being taken by ship to the location of the distressed vessel. Once there the SRV has the ability to dive to the submarine, engage with the escape hatch and begin the process of ferrying the crew to the safety of the waiting transfer under pressure system.

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