JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM – The U.S. and Chinese navies collaborated on a practical submarine rescue exercise conducted off the coast of Hawaii, during Rim of the Pacific 2016, July 13.
As part of the exercise, U.S. Navy submariners embarked the Chinese navy submarine rescue ship Changdao (ASR 867) and worked with Chinese navy counterparts to launch an undersea rescue vehicle LR-7, conducting a successful mating evolution with a faux-NATO rescue seat.
“It was a completely successful exercise on both sides,” said Bill Orr, technical advisor for the International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office. “The rescue vehicle mating exercise was a culmination of a very detailed and well-planned bilateral and multilateral submarine rescue vignette within the RIMPAC training evolution.”
Orr said the exercise demonstrated that the U.S. and China could seamlessly carry out a combined submarine rescue effort in the event of a submarine accident or casualty.
“I was very impressed with how engaged the Chinese officers were towards enabling a cooperative rescue effort, if needed,” said Orr. “Having everyone ready to jump into action and demonstrating the readiness displayed today is very satisfying. Of course, you hope you never have to use these kinds of skills in a non-training scenario, but I feel very comfortable knowing we can succeed if and when it’s needed.”
The rescue exercise also served as an important step in demonstrating China’s ability to support an international rescue event.
“This exercise is a great way to show that we can come together with different countries to rescue submarine personnel who are in distress,” said Navy Diver 1st Class Gabriel Butler, who served as a safety liaison for the U.S. Navy during the exercise. “It’s been great collaborating with both the Chinese and the other nations who were on hand for the training symposiums and briefings we did surrounding this exercise. We’ve found that most countries’ submarine rescue assets are very similar, which makes it that much easier should we ever need to come together to perform a submarine rescue.”
Butler added that while most countries’ submarine rescue assets are very similar to one another, the practical submarine exercise with China provided an opportunity for the countries to collaborate and develop a cohesive and actionable plan for enabling a successful submarine rescue exercise.
Twenty-six nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 30 to Aug. 4, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world’s largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans. RIMPAC 2016 is the 25th exercise in the series that began in 1971.