An intensive three week submarine escape and rescue
exercise has been conducted off the Western Australian coast.
Exercise BLACK CARILLON 16 is the 15th in a series of Navy submarine escape and rescue exercises, designed to practice and prove established rescue procedures used in the rare instance requiring the evacuation of personnel from a disabled submarine. For the first time, the exercise involved two recently acquired Defence Maritime Services operated submarine intervention gear ships MV Besant and MV Stoker working together and the use of a new transfer-under-pressure decompression chamber. During the exercise, crew from the simulated disabled submarine HMAS Dechaineux were rescued using the James Fisher Submarine Rescue System submersible, LR5. Following the rescue, the 21.5 tonne submersible was then lifted onto the deck of MV Stoker and the crew transferred to the decompression chamber without being exposed to the outside air pressure.
A significant part of the exercise was the role of Navy’s underwater medical specialists with a full medical team deployed on board Stoker who simulated lifesaving medical techniques aimed at preventing and responding to decompression sickness. Besant and Stoker are the latest enhancement to Navy’s submarine search and rescue capability. Besant is named after Lieutenant Commander Thomas Besant, Commanding Officer of First World War submarine, AE1 and Stoker is named after the Commanding Officer of sister submarine AE2, Lieutenant Henry Stoker.
Besant is an 83 metre ship that embarked a side-scan sonar, and the SCORPIO SC45 remotely operated vehicle to conduct surveys, damage assessment, debris removal from around the rescue seat. She also has the ability to deploy transponders for the LR5 rescue vehicle tracking system as well as carry the recompression chambers. Stoker is slightly larger at 93 metre, and embarks the submarine rescue system submersible and the decompression chamber as well as enhanced on board medical facilities and the ability to accommodate a full submarine crew.
Commander Submarine Force, Captain Matt Buckley summed up the exercise as an important interoperability milestone.
“The lessons of submarine rescue cross international borders, and knowledge shared in this area will only improve all our capabilities," he said. “We were able to confirm that our existing capability can save lives in the unlikely event that we ever experience a submarine incident requiring the evacuation of submariners."
“This year we incorporated the two rescue support ships and the LR5 submersible, and we proved that the process and procedures we have in place ensure we get the right equipment on site in a timely manner to enable a rescue of the crew. These capabilities along with ongoing exercising and refinement of procedures continue to demonstrate our ability to deploy the rescue system at will and provide a confidence within the submarine force.”