China And US Train Together At Submarine Rescue

LR7 submersible makes RIMPAC history

LR-7

The LR-7, imported from the United Kingdom for the PLAN, is deployed from the Changdao’s stern deck into the waters of Hawaii, where it docked with a simulated underwater submarine wreck.

At the 2016 RIMPAC naval exercises off Hawaii, the Chinese navy (PLAN) has participated alongside the navies of twenty five other countries. On July 14, the US Navy and PLAN successfully conducted the first ever submarine rescue exercise in RIMPAC history, making it a milestone in Sino-American naval relations.

USNS Safeguard

The USNS Safeguard’s role in the submarine rescue exercise was to deploy the ‘false seat’ (a mockup of a submarine wreck) to a depth of 200 feet, where the LR-7 (seen submerging in the foreground) would dock with it.

American and Chinese submariners gathered on the PLAN Type 926 submarine rescue ship Changdao (the USN no longer uses submarine rescue ships, instead relying on tech carried by submarines) for the exercise, after a tabletop simulation the day before. Together, the joint team launched the LR-7 deep sea submersible.

The LR-7 can dive over 300 meters below and rescue up to 18 submariners at one time. Meanwhile, the USNS Safeguard, a US naval auxiliary ship, placed a ‘false seat’, which simulates a downed submarine, at a depth of 180 feet. The LR-7 then descended and successfully attached to the false seat. (In the event of a real life submarine wreck, the submariners could climb through the attached portholes to safety.)

Changdao

The Changdao (named for the county in Shandong Province) is a Type 926 9,500 ton ship that carries rescue chambers which can be lowered from the ship to a depth of 300 meters, and carry up 18 rescued crewers from damaged submarines and underwater wrecks. The Changdao may also be carrying the LR7, a British made deep sea submersible that can dive to 500 meters underwater and also rescue 18 persons.

By all accounts, the Changdao-Safeguard exercise was a success, both in the operation itself and the broader goal of conducting a confidence-building measure between two navies engaged in often tense relations, most notably in the South China Sea. Other Chinese naval participation in RIMPAC 2016 will include search and rescue, maritime interdiction and resupply.

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