What we did
During the period 1994-2009 FSL supplied acoustic and surface navigation software called CMS (Contact Marking System) and also supported the NATO Submarine Rescue Team on trials and training operations. The software specified with the U.K. Ministry of Defence and supported by ourselves was supplied by Meridian Ocean Systems, Houston, Texas. It was installed into the mobile navigation suite that was part of the LR5 manned submersible and Super Scorpio ROV spread deployed onto ships anywhere in the world. This whole spread was manned and operated by the NATO Submarine Rescue Team. Team personnel were experts in underwater rescue, submarines, ROV work, diving and surface/sub-surface navigation. Industry experts such as Kongsberg, James Fisher Defence, Cable and Wireless and others supplied their best personnel to support the team.
The LR5 deep submergence vehicle, now operated by the Australian Navy, was able to start rescuing personnel from a distressed submarine within 72 hours having been flown from its UK base in a variety of aircraft (including the C130 Hercules, A400M, C17 Starlifter, C5 Galaxy or An124) and delivered to a locally pre-chartered vessel. Normally two aircraft would be used to deploy the team. All critical components were identical and backed up by the United States Navy and others. The LR5 team were on constant readiness day and night, all year, every year.
On a typical operation the LR5 and Super Scorpio ROV would operate in tandem with other ship, submarines, saturation diving teams and ROVs in the area. Each vehicle and diver above and below water was fitted with acoustic and/or GPS navigation beacons. The task of CMS was to track, report and enable de-confliction of all rescue teams. This is a vital task if further accidents are to be avoided. One of the standby support vessels was operated by SERCO (now QinetiQ) in Kyle of Lochalsh. That working knowledge led us to a couple of contracts in Kyle one of which is to provide the current Surface Tracking System.
CMS tracked any number of vehicles through underwater acoustic navigation beacons and surface GPS transponders. Displays of asset locations were then transmitted around the primary rescue ship and to other vessels involved in the operation. This enabled complete navigation safety to be achieved.
LR5 weighing 24 tons was launched from a support vessel. It was manned by a team of two or three and could take up to 16 people from the seabed at depths of over 2,000 feet. The Super Scorpio ROV weighing one ton was tasked to reconnoitre the stricken submarine and aid LR5. Typically the ROV would cut through cables and seabed debris when needed while providing a remote view of the docking procedure for LR5 on the distressed submarine.
In a world surrounded by layers of operational secrecy submarine rescue is an area where openness could well mean the saving of life. The team were deployed in support of the Kursk in 2000. They arrived on site independent of Russian help but were not used in that rescue. In 2005 the UK Submarine Rescue Team was deployed to Kamchatka, Russia at the request of the Russian Navy to rescue seven sailors trapped by cables and fishing nets in the stricken AS-28 PRIZ. The rescue was successful and awards were made to the team by President Putin.
Many nations have submarine rescue teams but Britain is expert in this and even provides submarine rescue vessels and equipment to countries such as China. The UK provides operational support for NATO, Norway and France. James Fisher Defence in Barrow supply a myriad of services worldwide including personnel, training, submersibles and new designs. Non-exclusively, customers include Australia, Sweden, Singapore, Korea, China and the US.