Skip to main content

NATO buys underwater navigation

Kongsberg Maritime Limited's, Waterlooville (UK) facility, has entered into a contract to provide underwater navigation, tracking and communications systems to the new NATO Submarine Rescue System.

The NATO Submarine Rescue System will enter service at the end of 2006, replacing the current UK rescue vehicle, LR5, which was dispatched to the scene of the last major accident, involving the Russian submarine Kursk in the Barents Sea in August 2000.

KONGSBERG will provide an integrated suite of systems providing the rescue forces with vital information to expedite the rescue mission. KONGSBERG will provide networked command information systems that will integrate a multitude of underwater and above water sensors and communications systems.

Mike Topp, the site manager at Waterlooville, said: "This provides us with the opportunity to select the very best subsystems from our extensive marine products portfolio and integrate them in a way that provides the customer with a highly competent and cost effective solution".

"That we have been selected also recognises our ability to utilise commercial off the shelf systems in a military environment, and our significant experience with naval underwater platforms, from small unmanned vehicles, to fully crewed submarines".

The rescue system will comprise A Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) - an unmanned craft which will locate the submarine within 56 hours, to check for signs of life, take air quality measurements, provide emergency supplies to survivors, and prepare the submarine for the rescue stage by removing debris.

A three-man operated Submarine Rescue Vehicle (SRV) which will, within 72 hours, dive up to 600 metres below the sea to rescue up to 150 survivors in groups of up to 15 at a time.

The 10m-long SRV will be flown out, together with a portable launch and recovery system and other specialist equipment, and fitted onto a suitable ship at a port near the incident. The ship will sail to the submarine location, where the 27-tonne SRV will be deployed and dive to dock with the submarine escape hatch, allowing crew to be transferred and raised to safety.

On its return to the ship, the SRV will transfer those rescued to special decompression units to ensure submariners do not suffer the 'bends' - a potentially fatal disorder resulting from nitrogen bubbles forming in the bloodstream.

The contract covers ten years of design, build and operational support for the system, which will be based at Her Majesty's Naval Base, Clyde, in Scotland. HMNB Clyde was selected because it has modern facilities, access to both shallow and deep waters for training exercises, and access to civilian and military airfields.

The new rescue system will primarily support the three partner nations, but will also be on standby to assist any nation anywhere in the world, complementing other systems operated by Sweden, the USA, Italy and Australia.