Submarine Rescue Ð The NATO Submarine Rescue System

15 March, 2012


Submarine Rescue – The NATO Submarine Rescue System

15 March 2012 London Evening Meeting

Chairman Bob Allwood, Chief Executive, SUT


Flyer PDF file



Submarining in peace and war is widely acknowledged as one of the most hazardous arms of the services. The first modern submarines came into service in the last decade of the 19th century and many were lost due to poorly understood engineering and operational limitations. Despite the dramatic technological advances in World War 2 and its immediate aftermath, there have been a surprising number of submarine losses since then. Submarines usually sink with the loss of all on board and the nature of submarine operations means that these events have not been in the public eye. However, since the publicity surrounding the sinking of the Russian Submarine Kursk and the aftermath of the event, conducted in the stark glare of the western publicity machine, public interest has been stimulated. The UK is part owner of the NATO Submarine Rescue System and enjoys a peerless reputation as the world leader for its skills both as operator and manufacturer of submarine rescue vehicles. How has this come about? What are the true figures for submarine accidents and losses? How have things improved? What key systems and technologies make up a Submarine Rescue System? This presentation gave a short history of the subject and then approached these questions from the point of view of the acceptance into service of the NSRS and its subsequent exercises. It discussed the problems encountered and their solutions. It also described the likely sequence of events in a rescue attempt and the difficulties of co-ordinating the efforts of many countries that in their normal affairs are hardly on speaking terms and differ widely in their approach to the subject.

The presentation was given by the retired naval Commander Jonathan (Jonty) Powis who has been involved in the subject since 1995. Jonty was in the navy from 1974-2006 during which time he specialised in submarines and navigation. He saw action in the Falklands Conflict as the Navigating Officer of HMS Conqueror and subsequently commanded HM Submarines Unseen, Resolution and Victorious. He was serving in the MoD during the Kursk tragedy and was closely involved in the rescue attempt by the UK. Thereafter he was the Royal Navy’s operational commander of the rescue system and on leaving the service joined the Rolls-Royce team as the Rescue Manager in charge of bringing NSRS into service. He is now working to sell the same system to envious nations that crave the same assurance of reliable rescue for their submarine crews.