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Captain Chris Baldwin and members of the crew.

By Kim Hardie

The Faslane-based NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS) has set sail from Glasgow’s King George V Dock to take part in Exercise Golden Arrow  which last until September 13.

The unique rescue system, and the teams who operate it, set sail onboard the ship SD Northern River on Wednesday, September 4, for the waters off Arran.

The system is jointly owned by the UK, France and Norway and is capable of diving down to a submarine in distress, docking with escape hatches and carrying out an evacuation of the vessel. Operating teams aim to have the system anywhere in the world within 72 hours – a target time which teams have practised and achieved during previous training exercises.

Around 40 Military personnel from the UK, Norway and France, including divers and medical staff, have joined with partners from Serco, James Fisher and Sons and Babcock Marine to test the capabilities of the rescue system.

With speed being essential in any submarine rescue scenario it is crucial that the mobilisation of the system and its operators are tested on a regular basis. Exercise Golden Arrow provides this opportunity and also brings together the partner nations, allowing them to meet and exchange their knowledge and experience to enhance their collective capability and effectiveness.

Commander Chris Baldwin, the Operations Officer for the NSRS

Commander Chris Baldwin, the Operations Officer for the NSRS, said:  “Exercise Golden Arrow will see around 350 tonnes of NSRS equipment, embarked onto the Serco vessel SD Northern River and operated in the waters around the Isle of Arran, where it will launch its Submarine Rescue Vehicle – known as ‘Nemo’ and conduct submerged operations. This will enable the pilots and divers operating the system to gain valuable training and experience in submarine rescue operations.

“While we hope it will never be used operationally, we obviously need to maintain a capability to respond to a call from any Allied or other nation for assistance to rescue submariners trapped in a disabled submarine, stranded on the seabed.”

The NSRS is in three main parts, all of which will be tested during the exercise – the first is an Intervention Remotely Operated Vehicle (IROV) – an independent system that is likely to be deployed first to supply lifesaving stores, such as food, water and medical supplies to the stricken submarine.

Next is the Submarine Rescue Vehicle (SRV), which is able to dive to 610 metres and locate and dock with the submarine. Up to 15 rescuees can be transferred to the rescue vehicle, including patients on stretchers, and then returned to the surface.

Lastly, rescued crew members would be transferred to the Transfer Under Pressure (TUP) decompression facility allowing the safe decompression of pressurised crew members, whilst the SRV performs further recovery dives.

The NATO Submarine Rescue System is a unique tri-national capability which was introduced in 2006. It is based at the Home of the Submarine Service in HM Naval Base Clyde and can respond to a stricken submarine anywhere in the world.




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