(Published in Indian Military Review, Oct 2013.)
Excerpts from the published article:-
Free escape from a submarine by the crew is feasible up to a depth of ~60 meters, and up to a depth of ~185 meters with specially designed escape suits. The US Steinke Hood developed in 1962, comprised of life jacket attached to a plastic facemask. This permitted breathing of air trapped in the hood by the escapee. Admiralty developed the Submarine Escape Immersion Ensemble (SEIE), which in addition to the Steinke Hood type mask covered the crewmember completely to provide thermal protection. In addition, it had a single man life raft in built in to the suit that permitted linking up with other life rafts upon surfacing. Some submarines have an inbuilt rescue sphere in to which the crew retreats; the crew ejects the sphere from the submarine thereafter.
Currently the Indian Navy uses the escape suits and the rescue bell system from the diving tender INS Neerekshak. Its Shishumar class submarines are fitted with the rescue sphere. Indian Navy’s efforts to procure two of its own DSRVs have not been successful yet. In the interim, Indian Navy has signed a contract with the US for the ‘global submarine rescue fly-away kit’. This would enable transportation of the rescue system within 72 hours to the nearest rescue port and permit rescue of at least eight personnel at a time. The maintenance and operation of this system, as well as other US submarine rescue systems is being done by M/s Phoenix International via a Government Owned, Contractor Operated/Maintained (GOCO/CM) arrangement, The Indian Navy and the US Navy (Undersea rescue command) have been undertaking joint submarine rescue exercises, the most recent one was INDIAEX-2012. Indian Navy had floated a RFI for DSRVs in Dec 2010. It has also raised an RFI for a single Submarine Rescue Bell System, as recently as September this year, in fact about a week prior to the Sindhurakshak accident.
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