Ill-equipped to carry out a submarine rescue operations in case of an underwater accident, India will join hands with the US to learn the tricks of the trade by holding a joint exercise on the specialist job later this month.
India already has a tie-up with the US for help and equipment to rescue submariners stuck inside a vessel in case there is an underwater accident in any of its 14 diesel-electric submarines currently in service.
According to sources, the US will bring a submarine rescue system, which is a Deep Submergence Rescue Vessel (DSRV) or a Submarine Rescue Chamber (SRC), for the exercise to train the Indian Navy personnel in rescue acts.
Description: Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicles perform rescue operations on submerged, disabled submarines of the U.S. Navy or foreign navies.
Features: DSRV s are designed for quick deployment in the event of a submarine accident. DSRV s are transportable by truck, aircraft, ship, or by specially configured attack submarine. At the accident site, the DSRV works with either a mother ship or mother submarine. The DSRV dives, conducts a sonar search, and attaches to the disabled submarine s hatch. DSRV s can embark up to 24 personnel for transfer to the mother vessel.
Background: DSRV s were developed as a result of the USS Thresher submarine accident in 1963, when all hands were lost. At the time, submarine operating depths greatly exceeded the capabilities of rescue vessels. The Deep Submergence Systems Project contracted with Lockheed Missiles and Space, Co. to produce a deep diving rescue submarine, the first of which was launched in 1970.
The US will fly the submarine rescue system to Mumbai and then it would be shipped to the exercise location, where it will be used for a dive deep under water to mate with the disabled submarine to rescue sailors. This is a specialist operation that is rarely practiced by Indian Navy sailors.
DSRV is like a mini submarine equipped with pressurised chambers, sonars and cameras, and it can rescue 24 sailors at a time from a depth 600 metres.
The DSRV links up with the mishap-hit vessel’s hatch and the sailors stuck in the ill-fated submarine could get into the DSRV, which will then delink from the submarine and bring the rescued sailors to the surface.
At present, Indian Navy sailors use ‘submarine escape pressurized suits’ or take the help of diving support ships like INS Nireekshak. But these could be used only for relatively shallow waters.
The Indian Navy is also in the process of procuring two DSRVs of its own at an estimated cost of $200 million or Rs.1,000 crore. But that process is delayed by nearly a decade now.
As an interim measure, India signed the agreement with the US Navy in 1997 for its ‘global submarine rescue fly-away kit’ service, paying an initial amount of $734,443.
But, after the Indian nuclear tests at Pokhran in 1998, the India-US agreement was scuttled due to international sanctions.
The contract was revived only in 2004, but the six-year interim has led to delays in putting in place the necessary infrastructure for India to avail the US submarine rescue service, including the fitting of ‘Padeyes’ that are holding devices welded on to the Indian submarine’s escape hatches to secure the DSRV.
The Indo-US deal envisages the Americans to provide the rescue service within 72 hours of an emergency notification.
India currently has a fleet of ageing 10 Russian ‘Kilo’ class and four German HDW submarines, apart from the newly acquired nuclear-powered INS Chakra leased from Russia earlier this year.
It is also building six French Scorpene ‘killer’ submarines at the Mumbai-based Mazagon Docks Limited under Project-75 estimated to cost Rs.23,562 crore ($4.6 billion) that are scheduled for delivery from 2015-2020.
It also hopes to own an indigenous nuclear submarine from 2013, named INS Arihant, followed by two more nuclear-powered vessels later in the decade