NATO exercise Bold Monarch 2011 brought navies from around the world to improve interoperability between submarines and submarine rescue units. The triennial event is the world’s largest submarine rescue exercise.
The 2011 exercise, which was held off the coast of Cartagena, Spain, marked the first time the Russian Navy has participated. As part of Bold Monarch 2011, the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System’s (SRDRS) Pressurized Rescue Module (PRM) Falcon successfully mated with the Russian Federation Navy’s Kilo-Class submarine Alrosa (B-781). As a result, Falcon is now certified to mate with a submerged Russian submarine and be able to rescue submariners.
Submarines from Portugal, Russia, Spain and Turkey were ‘bottomed’ during the event. “Rescue forces equipped with a range of sophisticated debris clearance, diver assisted gear and submarine rescue vehicles from Italy, the USA, Russia and Sweden, together with a jointly owned rescue system from France, Norway and the U.K., will engage in a serialized program to ‘rescue’ the stricken submariners,” said a NATO statement.
The U.S. SRDRS is kept in a fly-away status, ready to deploy on a moment’s notice. Based at the Deep Submergence Unit at the Naval Air Station in San Diego, Calif., SRDRS can deploy and be ready to mate with a disabled submarine anywhere in the world within 72 hours.
“The SRDRS consists of the Atmospheric Dive Suit 2000 (ADS2000) – manned, one-atmosphere dive suit that is used to inspect bottomed submarines and clear away debris that could cover an escape hatch, associated topside equipment and systems, and the PRM Falcon,” said Cmdr. Christy Hagen, a spokesperson for the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Force. “Falcon is a tethered, remotely-operated submersible that is launched and controlled from the deck of a surface ship and transfers up to 16 submariners from a disabled submarine per dive,” Hagen said.