Submarine Rescue Vehicles



The ADF contracted Submarine Escape & Rescue System is based at Henderson in WA. The LR5 System is managed by James Fisher Defence. The operating team of pilots, engineers and technicians maintain & upgrade the system.

The 21.5 tonne LR5 vehicle normally carries three submersible crew members, the pilot, a co-pilot and the systems operator. Up to 16 submarine survivors can be evacuated at a time to the mother ship or to a mother submarine. The LR5 could make up to eight trips to the distressed submarine (a rescue capability of 120 personnel) before needing to recharge the battery power supply.

James Fisher Defence maintains a computer register of ships capable of acting as the Mother Ship (MOSHIP) to host the SUBSUNK Rescue Suite. The LR5 System can be air lifted by a military or civil transporter aircraft for example by C-5 Galaxy or Antonov and a 747 and then transferred to port for speedy installation on the MOSHIP.


Photographs courtesy of James Fisher Defence.


The Australian Submarine Rescue Vehicle (ASRV) REMORA is a 16.5 tonne Remotely Operated Rescue Vehicle built about a diving bell. It has room for seven people, the operator/attendant and six survivors. It is capable of operations in excess of 500m in a current of 3 knots and of mating to a sunken submarine lying at angles of up to 60° from the vertical. Rescue and transfer under pressures of up to 5 Bar is achieved through mating to a Transfer Under Pressure chamber that is connected by spool pieces to the two 36-man recompression chambers.

The vehicle is powered and controlled by use of a 914m armoured electro-fibre optic umbilical which provides power to two 75hp hydraulic power units. It also passes sonar, communications and video data to a containerised Control Van aboard the rescue ship. A team of three comprising a Pilot, Navigator and Dive Supervisor mans the van. In a separate compartment at the rear of the van, the Naval Coordinator Rescue Forces communicates with the sunken submarine via underwater telephone, with the shore-based authorities via INMARSAT, and with local rescue assets via VHF radio. Accompanying the suite is a containerised workshop van.

The suite also includes a large backup generator, LP and HP air compressors and bottled gases. Twelve ELSS pods with associated stores are held which would normally be deployed ahead of the main rescue package. By posting these pods using a ROV or Newtsuit, survivors in the submarine can be sustained almost indefinitely.

With the exception of the underwater telephone all items of the suite are commercially sourced. This ensures compatibility of the skills required for operation with those used in industry. Training in the specific skills necessary to operate REMORA is only necessary on two occasions a year and is conducted at HMAS Stirling, thus achieving further cost savings. This training exercises the transport aspects of the service as well as being convenient to the (Western Australia) home base of most of the ASRV pilots.

The entire suite is either housed in ISO containers or is packed to permit carriage by C-130 Hercules aircraft, road, rail or sea. It is maintained ready to deploy within 12 hours of the alert being raised and can be anywhere in Australia within 36 hours. The suite can be deployed onboard a ship within a further 24 hours and the ship should be ready to sail 72 hours after callout.

The inclusion of an air-portable "A" Frame completes the suite and an indicative deck layout is shown on this slide (right).

REMORA and its associated suite not only represent the leading edge of submarine rescue technology, it also forms the only air-portable system capable of rescue and transfer under pressure from a sunken submarine at extreme angles and significant depths, and capable of transferring survivors safely under pressure to decompression facilities.

REMORA has not made submarine operation any safer but it does guarantee higher survival prospects for its crews if something does go wrong in future.


The Commissioning of HMAS PERTH takes place at D Berth, in Fremantle Western Australia, on Saturday...

The Commissioning of HMAS PERTH takes place at D Berth, in Fremantle Western Australia, on Saturday...