from La Jolla shift colors as they prepare to get
underway to participate in the submarine rescue exercise
Pacific Reach 2002.
of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) visit
La Jolla to discuss the capabilities of the DSRV Mystic.
"I believe that
the gathering here of submarine-operating countries from around
the world to exchange information on submarine rescue [will] aid
greatly in the rescue of submarine crews," Nakao
"Since there are only eight U.S. submarines capable of
landing a DSRV, and their normal operations could place them
days away from a potential rescue site, the possibility exists
that the U.S. would request the assistance of another
country," said Commander, Submarine Development Squadron
FIVE, CAPT Dale Nees, who served as the U.S. Navy commander for
the exercise. "Therefore, international exercises such as
Pacific Reach 2002 allow us to demonstrate interoperability
while also enhancing regional coordination."
Some of the Pacific nations have very capable rescue systems,
CDR Bill Orr, the Diving and Deep Submergence assistant on the
Submarine Warfare Division (N77) staff, asserted. "For
example, the Japanese rescue ship Chihaya is a very capable ship
with a DSRV similar to the U.S. vehicle, plus some additional
improvements such as an electromagnetic attachment ring for
positioning it on the seating surface."
CDR Orr also pointed out while the U.S. has long operated and
tested submarine rescue techniques in the NATO theater,
"getting Pacific nations together in this humanitarian area
is a significant step forward in that region and is a way to
maximize worldwide capability while minimizing costs.
"We don't want to duplicate research that others are doing.
We are all trying to solve the same problems in survivability,
escape, and rescue. Collaborating on projects and research
enables us to optimize scarce research funding."
The fast attack submarine La Jolla, with Mystic
attached, and the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force
exercise command and control ship JDS Bungo (MST-464),
steam to the operating area off the coast of Kyushu on
26 April during exercise Pacific Reach 2002.
The U.S. has pushed
development in cold water survivability research for submarine
escape and has issued the fleet improved thermal protection
immersion suits with attached individual life rafts, which were
designed by the British. Pacific Reach allowed a free exchange
of ideas from nations such as Singapore, who have researched
survival techniques for heat exposure and dehydration.
As only the second Pacific theater exercise of its type to be
conducted - the last was in Singapore in 2000 - Pacific Reach
provided more than just a chance to share technical and
engineering information. In a first-time symposium on biomedical
aspects of surviving escape and decompression, the various
Pacific nations shared discoveries that might save sailors on a
Major concerns of dive medicine include decompression sickness,
saturation, hypothermia, burns, hypoxia, near drowning, toxic
gas exposure, cardiac complications, and psychological trauma.
Studies were presented on subjects ranging from new technologies
and products for treating survivors and extending survival time
inside a disabled submarine, to medical storage space aboard a
submarine and the handling of mass casualties aboard a
supporting rescue ship.
"Medical supplies obviously vary widely among ten different
nations, and it is hard to predict what supplies might or might
not be available to a submarine [rescue] provider," said
Royal Australian Navy LCDR Sarah Sharkey during the symposium in
Sasebo. "And space is always a concern."
An officer from La Jolla explains
the capabilities of the DSRV Mystic to a JMSDF officer.
Mystic operated from
La Jolla to mate with foreign submarines, while Safeguard
supported the exercises as a command platform and provided
communication support to the submarines and DSRVs involved. The
salvage and rescue ship has a medical ward and recompression
chamber specifically tailored to providing medical treatment to
divers. The medical technicians onboard are trained to treat
dive-related injuries and illness. These assets brought
capabilities to exercise Pacific Reach that would be
indispensable in any real submarine rescue operation.
"We are primarily standing by to assist in recovery
operations by providing support should any of the divers suffer
from dive-related illness," said HT1(SS) Russell McCormick,
a diver aboard Safeguard. The crew of the ship will also be able
to use the experiences and knowledge they gained from Pacific
Reach should they be called on to assist in a real-world rescue
Specifically designed to fill the need for an improved means of
rescuing the crew of a submarine immobilized on the ocean floor,
Mystic can operate independently of surface conditions or under
ice for rapid response to an accident anywhere in the world. As
the Navy's only operational DSRV, Mystic is always maintained at
the highest state of readiness. Able to be transported by truck,
aircraft, surface ship, or submarine, Mystic is capable to reach
a disabled sub almost anywhere in the world.
"We haven't used the DSRV for an actual rescue, but we did
stand by and ramp up to mobilize for the incident with the Kursk,"
CDR Orr said of the San Diego-based deep submergence team. The
Mystic team performs weekly underwater training off the
California coast, practicing with a simulated mating surface
fitted to an artificial hull on the ocean floor. They also have
gone on alert during a "Sub Look," a time when a
submarine is overdue in reporting or when other indications of
"The purpose of going on alert during a 'Sub Look' is that
we're trying to minimize mobilization times. While confirming
that a submarine has been disabled the deep submergence team
starts making preparations to deploy." CDR Orr said.
"Because of the limited amount of survivability stores [on
board], if we wait a few hours until we know, that could be the
difference between life and death."
"Because we have to be rescue-ready, if something breaks,
we go all out until it's fixed," said MM1(SS) Bill Smith,
quality assurance supervisor and copilot of Mystic.
"Everyone works as long as it takes, because if we aren't
rescue-ready, there are submarines that can't come out of dry
dock, can't go on alpha trials, and can't do sea trials. We have
to be there for them."
|Our only forward-deployed
rescue and salvage ship, USS Safeguard (ARS-50), steams
off the coast of Kyushu on 28 April. Safeguard, along
with La Jolla and Mystic, were the U.S. Navy
participants in exercise Pacific Reach.
Singapore Navy L/T COL Mike Ong (right) and U.S. Navy
CDR Gary Latson (middle) discuss their embarkation in
the JMSDF DSRV Angler Fish 2.
In an inherently
dangerous business, the DSRV provides a safety net if things go
wrong, much like an ejection seat on a fighter jet or a lifeboat
onboard a ship.
Like the DSRV, exercise Pacific Reach was also specifically
designed to improve submarine rescue capabilities. Operating
with foreign submarines presents many new challenges to the
Mystic crew, but since she is the only U.S. vehicle of its kind,
they are accustomed to operating under experimental conditions.
Each new situation is seen as an opportunity to learn.
"Different layouts present different challenges. That's
what we look for," said STSC(SS) Todd Litke, leading chief
petty officer for Mystic. "It's great training because we
could be called at any time to work with submarines that we've
never seen before."
Mystic's outer hull is about 50 feet long and eight feet in
diameter. A shock mitigation system allows it to mate with the
hatch combing on a submarine's rescue and escape trunk. The
vessel can attach to a submarine in nearly any orientation, and
a skirt allows a watertight seal to be made between the DSRV and
a submarine with a list up to 45°. After the seal is made, the
sub's upper access hatch can be opened to evacuate the stranded
submariners. Capable of transporting 24 submariners at a time
from the disabled sub to rescue support ships, Mystic is manned
by a pilot, a copilot, and two life-support personnel who
provide care to the rescued victims.
"I love this
job," Smith said. "This is absolutely the best job in
the United States Navy. There are a lot of very unique things we
can do. We can do oceanic research, we can do rescue, even
recovery if we need to. It is an awesome job because you get to
do such a diversity of things. And at 2,000 feet you get to see
things you never thought you would see," he added.
The 40-ton Japan Maritime Self Defense Force DSRV Angler
Fish 2 is lowered through a well in the JMSDF submarine
rescue ship JDS Chihaya.
can be carried to a rescue scene aboard surface support ships,
but eight U.S. submarines are specially out-fitted to
"piggyback" the DSRV. Transporting Mystic on a mother
submarine gets the DSRV to the immediate vicinity of a
disabled submarine very quickly. From there, Mystic deploys and
moves directly to conduct the rescue.
"To man our DSRV,
break away from the mother submarine, locate and mate to a
disabled submarine, transfer all personnel, and come back should
take only four to five hours," said Litke.
construction nearly 30 years ago, Mystic has undergone extensive
upgrades and is widely recognized as one of the most
sophisticated submersible vehicles in the world. It stands ready
every day to support the submarine rescue needs of the U.S. Navy
and its allies. Even though the team in San Diego prepares daily
for rescue efforts, CDR Orr is candid in noting where the U.S.
submarine community places its priorities.
"We put our
resources on prevention, we spend a significant amount of time
and effort on our Subsafe program," the rescue officer
said. "If you never have to rescue anyone, that's the best
thing. We want to mitigate or eliminate a possible sinking. It's
not an insignificant effort to make sure your subs don't go to
the bottom." It's also not surprising that the U.S. and
other nations have deemed escape and rescue as a small insurance
policy in the event of an unforeseen tragedy.
for example, use the term duty-of-care," CDR Orr said.
"They have a somewhat more comprehensive submarine rescue
program. Other countries are beyond us in end-to-end capability,
from first responders to mobile compression chambers, and even
using parachute assistance. They also have responders parachute
into the DISSUB site and toss life rafts out of planes." In
an emergency, he said the U.S. Navy would likely deploy SEAL
teams and request Coast Guard assistance, but these measures
have not yet been exercised.
"There are plenty of ideas to
broaden submarine capability exercises, such as a no-notice call
out, and end-to-end exercises," CDR Orr said. "We
would run stopwatches to see how fast they respond. Starting
with alertment from the new submarine emergency positioning buoy
(SEPIRB) - throw it in the water and go through COSPAS SARSAT
[the search and rescue satellite systems] and have everyone go
through the alert and mobilization from the fleet and type
commanders, through DEVRON FIVE, to the Deep Submergence Unit.
You could call the Air Force for the location of the nearest
C-5, move the gear out of the DSU hangar all the way down to the
pier and actually go out and mate to the false seat in the ocean
to simulate a downed SSBN and rescuing 155 people. The DSU team
has proven them- selves to be very capable, but we need to
formulate and test our entire U.S. response plan."
CDR Orr was impressed with the multinational exercise. "In
the four years I've been here, this was the most successful
exercise of the DSRV. In my opinion, you don't grade readiness
on an exercise; you grade it on the operation. So problems in an
exercise are a good thing. With a flawless exercise, you don't
get any lessons learned. If you can guarantee 100-percent
repeatability of a flawless exercise, you don't need lessons
learned. Our goal is to work toward a seamless network of people
who operate at a higher level of risk in the event of a tragedy
to maximize readiness and minimize mobilization."
the U.S. Navy signed an agreement with Sweden as preparations
were made for Exercise Sorbet Royal in the Atlantic. With this
agreement, CDR Orr said, even if a U.S. submarine were crippled
in U.S. territorial waters, they could expect help from that
Scandinavian nation as well as the U.K. and Australia, who
already enjoy cooperative accords with the U.S. Navy to maximize
our rescue capability.
Self Defense Force personnel on Chihaya move the 40-ton
JMSDF DSRV Angler Fish 2 into position for deployment
during the exercise
To provide realism and to provide another
opportunity for multinational cooperation during Pacific Reach,
the Deep Submergence Team also came on alert as USS San
Francisco (SSN-711) departed Norfolk for sea trials. "We go
to a higher state of readiness and alert, because, coming out of
overhaul, there's a slightly higher potential for an accident.
This time, for the first time, we coordinated with countries we
have rescue agreements with, like the U.K. and Sweden to ensure
they were available at the same time."
nations, Pacific Reach proved an effective way to foster
relationships between other countries. "Not only do we
improve our submarine rescue capability, we build mutual trust
among the participating navies," said the JMSDF National
Coordinator, CAPT Masao Kabayashi, Commander, Submarine Flotilla
The Singapore National Coordinator believes the exercise
"promotes friendships," said LT COL Cyril Lee.
"This helps to engage the nations in the region and
produces an avenue to interact with each other." "I
believe that we navy personnel gathering together here to deepen
our relationship of mutual trust will contribute to the peace
and stability of the region, and the prosperity of each
nation," VADM Nakao said. "In our view, the merit
earned through participation in multilateral exercises is not
limited to improving the Self Defense Force's skills," said
Yoshihiko Yamashita, Japan's parliamentary secretary for
defense. "Through joint drills and exchanges of ideas,
multilateral exercises make a significant contribution to
promoting mutual understanding and confidence-building among
Compiled by JOC Foutch, a
Military Editor for UNDERSEA WARFARE Magazine. LTJG Perkins and JO3
Eplen were assigned to
Commander, Task Force 76 Public Affairs to cover
Pacific Reach 2002.