ISMERLO Put into Action for Submarine Rescue Exercise

Story Number: NNS050615-02Release Date: 6/15/2005 9:13:00 AM
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By Chief Journalist (SW/AW) Mark O. Piggott, Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office (ISMERLO) at Naval Support Activity Norfolk, Va., was activated June 14 to begin the mobilization phase for the NATO exercise Sorbet Royal 2005.

The exercise, being held in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Taranto, Italy, June 17-30, will test international submarine escape and rescue personnel, equipment and procedures to cope with the most extreme submarine rescue missions and will involve ships, aircraft and submarines from ten NATO nations, Russia, Ukraine and Israel.

"We look at the availability of rescue assets out there, provide notice for urgent requirements for rescue, and post that information on our Web site," said Bill Orr, ISMERLO coordinator and submarine rescue officer, Commander, Naval Submarine Forces. "The nation that lost the submarine, as well as nations that can respond, can see that information and identify the best possible assets to respond to the disabled submarine."

Established in September 2004, ISMERLO is the international hub for information and coordination on submarine rescue, acting as the liaison office between the nation that has a disabled submarine and the rest of the submarine escape and rescue community that will be providing rescue assistance.

"There are such a limited number of people who really know submarine rescue and submarine rescue mobilization," Orr explained. "In this post-Kursk environment, we actually developed the method of exchanging information without the use of a telephone. We further developed that into our Web site, so everyone from every nation can exchange information across the Web site without having to use a phone."

The main element of the Sorbet Royal exercise will be a two-week live exercise, which will follow the stage-setting scenario exercise and mobilization exercise conducted with ISMERLO. During the live exercise, four submarines from Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Turkey will be placed on the bottom, each with up to 52 men aboard, while rescue forces with a range of sophisticated rescue vehicles and systems from the United States, Italy, France and the United Kingdom, together with Special Forces divers, medical teams and support and salvage ships from France, the Netherlands, Russia, Ukraine, Israel, Italy, Spain, United States and the U.K., will work together to solve complex disaster rescue problems in a variety of difficult scenarios.

"What Sorbet Royal gets us is that it actually brings a full multinational response and look at how we would respond in a multinational way to rescue a disabled submarine," Orr stated. "We want to be able to respond to any nation that needs to be rescued. It's the humanitarian way."

"With Sorbet Royal, we bring all the nations together, from the Pacific and the Atlantic, into a single exercise and we test the procedures that we have, we look at further methods to develop better procedures, and most importantly, ensure we've got our command structure out there in the exercise to optimize our multinational response," he added.

With more than 40 different nations now operating submarines worldwide, participation in global rescue response previously focused in NATO now extends to the entire global submarine community, including Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, India, Japan, Pakistan, Russia, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Sweden and many others.

"The global submarine rescue community can work together and has shown that they can work together to respond to any submarine that's been disabled," Orr said. "Submariners are a close knit community, and we're here for those Sailors, any nation, anywhere in the world."

Assets from the United States participating in Exercise Sorbet Royal include USS Grasp (ARS 51), and the Deep Submergence Unit, based in San Diego, supported by Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2, based out of Little Creek Amphibious Base, Norfolk, Va.

For more information about Exercise Sorbet Royal 2005, visit

For more information about ISMERLO, visit

For related news, visit the Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet Navy NewsStand page at

The Navy's Deep Submergence Unit Submarine Rescue Chamber (SRC) is loaded on board a 747 aircraft at the Air Mobility Command (AMC) terminal.
050607-N-6426C-011 San Diego, Calif. (June 7, 2005) - The Navy's Deep Submergence Unit Submarine Rescue Chamber (SRC) is preparing to be loaded on board a 747 aircraft at the Air Mobility Command (AMC) terminal. The equipment is being transported to Italy, where U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) divers will respond to a submarine escape and rescue exercise in the Mediterranean Sea during exercise "Sorbet Royal 2005." Sorbet Royal will test the capabilities and interoperability of 10 participating nations. Four submarines will participate in the exercise, testing divers abilities use rescue equipment to solve complex disaster problems. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class James Christopher (RELEASED)
June 10, 2005
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