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What happens if a Submarine goes missing

By its underwater nature, the submarine service remains one of the more perilous jobs in the Royal Navy. Advanced technology means that today's nuclear-powered vessels can now remain 120 days without surfacing and deliver a cruise missile with pinpoint accuracy to a target 400 miles away. There are also hundreds of checks constantly carried out on board and improved training for modern submariners. But there is always the potential for disaster.

In 1913, a memo was issued to all men of the submarine service by an admiral in charge of the fleet, which stressed the danger. He wrote: 'It is essential that the crew of a submarine should be highly trained for every officer or man has it in his power, by neglect or stupidity, to jeopardise his vessel and risk the lives of his shipmates.' The warning may have been issued before the First World War but it is an ethos which the Navy still strongly adheres to.

The Royal Navy today operates a total of 16 submarines, based in Scotland and Plymouth and which include four Vanguard class vessels fitted with Trident - Britain's nuclear deterrent. All the fleet's movements remain secretly guarded as they operate throughout the seas and oceans of the world undetected and unsupported. And in the event of one of the submarines going missing, the Navy will put into operation its 'submiss' procedures. This involves alerting all vessels in the area where the submarine was last reported in an attempt to make contact with it. In the event that the submarine is located, the Navy will immediately launch its 'subsunk' procedure.

Specially trained divers from the Subsunk Parachute Assistance Group (SPAG) based at the former HMS Dolphin in Gosport will be scrambled to a RAF station and flown to the site. From the plane, they will parachute into the water where their sole job is to rescue any submariners on the surface who have escaped from the submarine.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence will arrange the charter of the only deep submersible rescue vehicle in the Country, owned by telecommunications company, Cable and Wireless, to rescue any remaining sailors from the submarine. By clamping onto escape hatches on the vessel, the vehicle can pluck submariners directly from the submarine's hull. A request would also be made to the US Navy for the use of their rescue submersibles to support the operation.

Reproduced with kind permission from
Submariners News


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