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Submarine rescue system to be tested in NATO exercise

La(Phot) Dave Jenkins/MoD/Crown Copyright/PA Wire

By Lucinda Cameron, PA Scotland

A rescue system that can evacuate submariners from a stricken vessel is setting off to take part in a Nato exercise.

The Nato Submarine Rescue System (NSRS), based at Faslane, can dive down to a submarine in distress and dock with escape hatches, enabling those inside to get out.

Operating teams aim to have it anywhere in the world within 72 hours.

Around 40 military personnel from the UK, Norway and France, including divers and medical staff, will join partners from James Fisher and Sons and Babcock to test the system in Exercise Golden Arrow, which runs until September 13.

The system, jointly owned by the UK, France and Norway, was loaded on to a ship in Glasgow on Wednesday and will sail down the River Clyde to take part in the exercise off the coast of Arran.

Commander Chris Baldwin, of the Royal Navy, said: "To make sure that we can operate the system correctly we're going to be deploying to the waters around the Isle of Arran, putting a target on to the seabed and then launching the Submarine Rescue Vehicle (SRV) into the water, and the pilots can then practise manoeuvring on to the target and the rescue chamber operator in the back of the submarine, who operates a pressure lock, can practise the procedures to open the lock safely on the target.

"Then we will be bringing the SRV back on board the ship and practising some transfer under pressure procedures, where we have the SRV locked on to the transfer under pressure system."

The NSRS is in three main parts, the first of which is an Intervention Remotely Operated Vehicle (IROV) - an independent system that is likely to be deployed first to supply life-saving stores such as food, water and medical supplies to the stricken submarine.

Next is the Submarine Rescue Vehicle (SRV), which can to dive to 610 metres and locate and dock with the submarine.

Up to 15 people can be transferred to the rescue vehicle, including patients on stretchers, and then returned to the surface.

Lastly, rescued crew members can be transferred to the Transfer Under Pressure (TUP) decompression facility while the SRV performs further recovery dives.

The Nato Submarine Rescue System was introduced in 2006.