JFD Australia, which has provided Australia’s submarine rescue capability for more than a decade, recently completed the annual Black Carillon submarine rescue certification exercise in partnership with the Royal Australian Navy off the coast of Western Australia.

The rescue system can not only save submariners from a disabled submarine but  also treat them once they are safely out of the water. The system includes a piloted submarine rescue vehicle that after being launched from a supply ship, dives down to locate and mate with a disabled submarine, a transfer-under-pressure chamber to transport the rescued crew to the water’s surface and a state-of-the-art hyperbaric equipment suite, delivered into service just two years ago, that can provide crucial medical treatment once personnel are back on the ship. This means the entire crew of a Collins-class submarine (or an Attack-class submarine), some 60 personnel, can be saved and then treated for any medical conditions as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“This is a critical sovereign capability for Australia and is what submarine rescue is all about,” said Toff Idrus, managing director, JFD Australia. “Nothing is more important to us than keeping submariners safe, it is our highest priority.”

Participating in Black Carillon 2020 was JFD Australia’s team of local operators and tradespeople based at the company’s national headquarters and advanced production facility at Bibra Lake, south of Perth.

Globally, JFD provides submarine rescue services to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), which includes the British Royal Navy and French Navy, as well as navies in India, Singapore, South Korea and Sweden.

Australia uses the Manned Submersible LR5 rescue vehicle.

Recently, Australia’s submarine rescue capability was called into question, forcing the chief of the Royal Australian Navy, Vice Admiral Michael Noonan, to hit back at an ABC News report that warned the Navy’s fleet of submarines had “limited ability” to save trapped submariners. “I reject the premise in the ABC article, ‘Veteran warns Australia’s Collins Class submarine fleet has limited ability to save trapped submariners’, that our submarines are not safe, or that Defence is not providing a safe work environment for our submariners,” Noonan said in a statement released Wednesday. “Their safety is our number one priority. Royal Australian Navy submariners are a professional force, trained and equipped to manage all possible eventualities related to submarine operations.

Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Michael Noonan.

“Defence has an existing contracted submarine escape and rescue service provider that is certified to provide services for all likely scenarios and operational areas under which submarine rescue would be performed,” Noonan added. “Australia is also a member of an international coalition established by NATO to provide submarine escape and rescue services globally. This coalition was established to provide global support to submarine rescue operations. Navy’s rescue systems are annually tested and certified through Exercise Black Carillion, currently being conducted off Western Australia.”

In the ABC report, a former Navy clearance diver who helped produce the first rescue system for Australia’s Collins Class submarines has warned the fleet’s interim safety equipment has limited ability to save trapped submariners. Last week the ABC revealed Defence was considering cancelling a A$297 million contract with a US company to provide a new “submarine escape rescue and abandonment system” by 2022.

The revelations have prompted a 50-year veteran of the military to warn Australia’s ageing submarine rescue system has severe limitations and any delays in acquiring a replacement could open a dangerous capability gap. Captain Anthony “Dusty” Miller, who helped introduce the “Remora” remotely operated rescue vehicle to Australia in 1995, said he was speaking out publicly over deep concerns held within the submariner community. “Seeing what’s happening today with the possible cancellation of the current contract, myself and others are very concerned with the safety consequences from this,” he told the ABC.

Since 2009 the Royal Australian Navy has operated the British manned LR5 submersible for its Collins Class fleet, but the system is scheduled to reach its end of life in 2024, ABC reported.


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