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Subsea operations and manufacturing specialist JFD has successfully supported a NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS) aircraft loading evolution known as a Flying Fish exercise with the US Air Force (USAF), the company announced on 7 February 2023. 

The exercise, which was held in September 2022 at Royal Air Force Mildenhall in Suffolk, UK, was conducted to ensure an NSRS Submarine Rescue Vessel (SRV – in this case call-sign ‘NSRS SRV1-Nemo’) could be loaded and transported on a USAF C-5 Super Galaxy airlifter in the event of a submarine rescue operation. 

The SRV, a JFD spokesperson explained to ESD, is a free-swimming submersible designed to be capable of being launched from a vessel of opportunity using its portable launch and recovery system. The SRV can rescue submariners from a distressed submarine at depths down to 610 m, after which it is recovered and mated to a suite of transfer-under-pressure (TUP) decompression chambers into which the rescuees are transferred to receive treatment. 

‘NSRS SRV1-Nemo’ was built by the subsea division of Forum Energy Technologies, but is typical of the rescue assets used by the NSRS and the rescue systems designed and/or operated and maintained by JFD, the spokesperson added. 

NSRS SRV1-Nemo’ being loaded onto a USAF C-5 airlifter during a recent Flying Fish exercise held at Royal Air Force Mildenhall in Suffolk, UK. (Crown Copyright)

Demonstrating the effective transportation of submarine intervention and rescue capabilities is critical in responding to a submarine rescue emergency, as any delays to the response could put beleaguered submarine crews at risk. The September Flying Fish exercise has thus significantly improved the options for NSRS air movement because the C-5 is similar in capacity and range to the NSRS’ other prime airlifter, the Antonov An-124, the fleet availability of which had been put in some doubt due to the war in Ukraine. 

The NSRS is jointly owned by the United Kingdom, France and Norway but is operated and maintained by JFD under a government-owned, contractor-operated (GOCO) contract model. The UK, France and Norway have a memorandum of understanding with the United States for collaboration and mutual support in response to a distressed submarine incident.   

NSRS air movement exercises are designed to rehearse the loading of NSRS assets onto suitable heavylift aircraft such as the C-17, A400M and An-124. Following the exercise the C-5 can now be added to that list. 

The exercise saw the successful culmination of weeks of planning between JFD and its trusted supply chain of the NSRS Authority, UK Ministry of Defence, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, US Navy and USAF. 

JFD is an established provider to 80 countries and more than 30 navies worldwide, supporting multiple submarine rescue systems in service around the globe.  

Peter Felstead