‘Nemo’ rescue vehicle exercises off Arran

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A unique submarine rescue system known as ‘Nemo’ was being tested in the waters off Arran this week.

The Faslane-based Nato Submarine Rescue System (NSRS) has been taking part in Exercise Golden Arrow, which finished yesterday.

The system is jointly owned by the UK, France and Norway and is capable of diving down to a submarine in distress, docking with escape hatches and carrying out an evacuation of the vessel. Operating teams aim to have the system anywhere in the world within 72 hours – a target time which teams have practiced and achieved during previous training exercises.

Around 40 military personnel from the UK, Norway and France, including divers and medical staff, have joined with partners from Serco, aboard SD Northern River, James Fisher and Sons and Babcock Marine to test the capabilities of the rescue system.

With speed being essential in any submarine rescue scenario it is crucial that the mobilisation of the system and its operators are tested on a regular basis. Exercise Golden Arrow provides this opportunity and also brings together the partner nations, allowing them to meet and exchange their knowledge and experience to enhance their collective capability and effectiveness.

Commander Chris Baldwin, the operations officer for the NSRS said ‘Exercise Golden Arrow had involved the submarine rescue vehicle – known as ‘Nemo’ – conducting submerged operations enabling the pilots and divers to gain valuable training and experience in submarine rescue operations.

He said: ‘While we hope it will never be used operationally, we obviously need to maintain a capability to respond to a call from any Allied or other nation for assistance to rescue submariners trapped in a disabled submarine, stranded on the seabed.’

The NSRS is in three main parts, all of which will be tested during the exercise – the first is an Intervention Remotely Operated Vehicle (IROV) – an independent system that is likely to be deployed first to supply lifesaving stores, such as food, water and medical supplies to the stricken submarine.

Next is the Submarine Rescue Vehicle (SRV), which is able to dive to 610 metres and locate and dock with the submarine. Up to 15 rescuees can be transferred to the rescue vehicle, including patients on stretchers, and then returned to the surface.

Lastly, rescued crew members would be transferred to the Transfer Under Pressure (TUP) decompression facility allowing the safe decompression of pressurised crew members, whilst the SRV performs further recovery dives.

The NATO Submarine Rescue System is a unique tri-national capability which was introduced in 2006. It is based at the Home of the Submarine Service in HM Naval Base Clyde and can respond to a stricken submarine anywhere in the world.


The Submarine Rescue Vehicle (SRV) known as ‘Nemo’. NO_B37sub01

Representatives from the three nations; the United Kingdom, Norway and France, who own the rescue system, left to right: Commander Chris Baldwin, Royal Navy, Commander Espen Engebretsen, Royal Norwegian Navy, Lorrain Fraysse, French project manager and Olivia Kinghorn, MOD project engineer. NO_B37sub02

The NSRS is loaded on to the Serco ship SD Northern River in Glasgow. NO_B37sub03

Operations officer for the rescue system Commander Chris Baldwin. NO_B37sub04