A historic international milestone was achieved when the Russian submarine, SSK Alrosa, mated with a U.S. submarine rescue system during exercise Bold Monarch 2011, June 7.
The coupling of the U.S. Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System (SRDRS) and the Russian submarine established an international interoperability and cooperation between the two nations.
“During Bold Monarch, 13 countries worked together to save submariners from the depths of the sea,” said Capt. David Dittmer, deputy commander, Submarines North and tactical commander of all the units involved in the exercise.
Bold Monarch 2011 is a NATO exercise supported by both the Submarine Escape and Rescue Working Group (SMERWG) and the International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office (ISMERLO). Submarine escape and rescue is an international humanitarian aid effort that requires cooperation across national and alliance boundaries. ISMERLO was established in 2004 and is the international coordinating hub for global submarine rescue procedure, systems, equipment and support ships. It also ensures at least one of the world’s rescue systems is available to be deployed immediately should an emergency occur.
The exercise took place off the coast of Spain, and featured submarines from Spain, Russia, Portugal and Turkey. Submarine rescue systems from the U.S., Russia, Italy and a jointly-owned NATO asset were proven compatible with every submarine.
“We enjoyed this chance to work together,” said Capt. George Shelest, a Russian Federation Navy officer from the Russian Federation Navy Liaison Office. “It was a demonstration of good will from both sides, and a demonstration of the compatibility of our systems. I think that gives more of a chance to be saved if something goes wrong.”
The coordinator of ISMERLO concurred with Shelest’s assessment. “The cooperation shown between all the participants and observers of the exercise demonstrates the growing importance of international cooperation,” said Bill Orr. “Now there is a greater chance of ensuring a successful rescue if a submarine casualty occurs.”
The historical significance of the operation and exercise permeated the thoughts of all who participated, but resonated greatly with a U.S. Sailor assigned to the Deep Submergence Unit (DSU).
“Deep Submergence Unit is unique,” said Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Joel Rivera, a forward attendant for SRDRS and whose DSU command is the U.S. Navy’s sole provider of submarine rescue capability. “I never thought I’d be able to walk around on a Russian submarine; before I came to this unit, I didn’t know these rescue capabilities existed. As a submariner, I will be more comfortable going back to submarines knowing all of these countries are willing to help if something goes wrong.”
Rivera and U.S. Navy Sailor Joe Olin, a second class Navy Diver, presented Col. Zaycer Anton, commanding officer of the Alrosa, a plaque and an American flag to commemorate and honor the historical moment and cooperative effort between the Russian submarine and the U.S. rescue system.
More than 40 countries are known to operate more than 440 submarines world-wide, making the confirmation of rescue abilities between nations vital. These exercises foster safety and the ability to work together on a survival level, and also promote understanding and a commitment to stability through regional cooperation.