Sunday, August 07, 2005

Some followup thoughts on the Russian sub rescue

Reports continue to conflict as to exactly what the Priz was tangled in:

Its [Russia's] naval officers also issued a series of contradictory statements about what had entrapped the vessel and often seemed uncertain how much air remained onboard.
Shortly before the snag developed, Commander McDonald said, the British submersible had clipped one of possibly five sections of a discarded fishing net that had fouled the propeller of the Russian submarine.

Commander McDonald also said British and American officials at the scene indicated that it was just the fishing net that had ensnared the vessel, and that it was not caught on the antenna and cables of an antisubmarine surveillance system, as the Russians had announced.

The net effect (pardon the pun) was the same...the sub got tangled and couldn't get up. Makes you wonder just what it was caught in, though.

The Priz being a submarine rescue boat, the crew was fairly well prepared to be the ones in trouble:

Even before the British sailors set to work, Russian officials had said the submarine's crew of seven men were alive. They had donned thermal suits and huddled together in a single compartment, and were minimizing their movements to conserve their remaining air.

Power had been all but shut down inside the sunken vessel, and its heater had been turned off to save its dwindling energy reserves, rendering the titanium-hulled craft a chilled, dark tube.

That and, as Lubber's Line points out, they likely had some LiOH or even chlorate candles. I don't know for sure what Russian rescue subs carry, but if they are outfitted for being the rescuers they were probably pretty well equipped to survive for a while.

As has been mentioned before, the Brits were the heroes of the day. It appears there may be some logistics issues to iron out in San Diego (and some "training" to be accomplished, via a few good butt chewings):

Two other Scorpio craft sent by the American Navy were still sitting on a ship in port on the Kamchatka peninsula when the Russian submarine was freed. Commander McDonald said Russian officials had been waiting for other advanced American diving gear to arrive before setting out on the six-hour voyage to the spot where the submarine was trapped.

The British reached the scene first in part because they had a shorter flight to get their Scorpio to Russia. But it also took the Americans four hours longer than expected Friday to load the Scorpios onto a cargo plane in San Diego, with both the Air Force and the Navy citing each other for contributing to the delay.

Still, American officials said the rescue was a testament to the intense efforts that had been made to increase cooperation among navies since the Kursk sank.

This is likely part of the reason why response to these sorts of emergencies is have to plan for things not going right, especially in emergency situations. The Brits had our back on this one, and they pulled through...but that last sentance says it all. Multi-navy cooperation and training, and a plan with backups in place. At least some good came from the ashes of the Kursk tragedy...and at least Russia was able to swallow their pride and ask for help.

"The close teamwork and global coordination between our navies to rescue these sailors in such a short time is testimony to the spirit and determination of our nations," said Adm. Gary Roughead, commander of the United States Pacific Fleet.

Yes, indeed. What the admiral said...

With American and British rescue services arriving from distant points on the globe, the accident underscored anew the decline of Russia's military. Once feared and respected, it has deteriorated sharply since the late Soviet period.

Some naval ports are so short of cash that the Russian news media occasionally reports of electricity blackouts on bases because their administrators cannot pay the bills.

Those tidbits (along with the Kursk incident and Russia's dire need for assistance in this situation) would really bother me if I were a Russian sailor. The Russian navy has really declined badly...I remember they lost a sub to sinking during a tow (it was inactivated) a couple of years back, too. They may be a potential adversary, but I can't help but feel bad for the Russian sailors, who are serving in a force that is more dangerous to them than their enemies. Submarines, above all others, have to "do it right" and there's no room for half measures, cutting corners, or doing it "on the cheap". One wonders if a USS San Francisco-type collision were to befall a Russian SSN if they'd make it up...or make it home?

At any rate, I'm relieved the sailors were saved. The Brits get the bragging rights at the pub, but in the end the important thing is that seven sailors will be going home to their families, and submariners around the world are celebrating this time instead of holding memorials.

(Crossposted from The Online Magazine Formerly Known As Rob's Blog)


At 1:11 AM, Blogger Chet Kingsley said...

Degeekifying Documentation
Jacinta Richardson recently told me that "I personally would love to hear a talk about documenting existing projects or about rewriting documentation to aid the non-technical user ." So I think I'll blog about ...
Checkin out the post. Joan here
from distance education learning online
will bookmark.


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