The hidden gas wars - series

Part 1 — 2018  So what was ALL of the fuss about?

The Russian EU gas pipeline saga STILL continues with more some unforeseen twists & turns along the way, since I last wrote about the Gas wars.

The Turkish Stream is being built, with Bulgaria out in the cold.  This is all the remarkable feat for Russia, given Turkey's seriously antagonistic & contrived position in Syria.

No issues or major headaches for Germany with Nord Stream 2, despite some vocal political protests (including Poland and the Baltic States predictably), from some certain corners of the EU. The political skullduggery is still there & more lashings of the utterly underhand attitudes of certain EU members. The US administration isn't too fond of the Nord Stream2 project, because in the words of the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said it was “not a helpful piece of infrastructure to support stability in Europe.” (SURE). Nothing to do with the fact that the US covets a big slice of the Europe LNG, through its own shale gas derived LNG exports. Sure thing to swap dependency on one big gas provider, at a reasonable cost, with another, that is going to be potentially eye- wateringly expensive due to the LNG import costs, for the average EU citizen.

"Moreover, even states that have built LNG import facilities, such as Lithuania, continue to seek Russian imports due to the significant price gap between LNG and Russian pipeline gas." Foreign Policy 6 Feb 18

Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines
Collapse )

Synthesis of the Ukrainian Crisis

Part 3 a - The Fascist Government; (Translation

Translator's note: These are part of series of articles first appeared back in 2014, on a French site Les Crises fr.  There are 3 parts which I have mostly translated). 

At a time, now in 2018, where entire governments & 'leading names',(principally the US, EU, NATO members), seem to readily use the "Blame Russia" narrative, to deflect & cover up their very own woeful inadequacies and failures (political &  military governance), a trip down memory lane is needed, to a time, when events in Ukraine, set the scene for today's geopolitical tussle and  dangerous mud-slinging.


Far from being a government of national unity, the interim government essentially consists of ministers from the West of Ukraine & Kiev.


 This is the political composition of the government as of the 22nd of Feb:

translation: Voyous: thugs

On the 27 February, the Government recognized by the West had 6 out of 19 ministers, who belonged or had previoulsy belonged to neo-nazi / fascists organisation, 4 of which were Svoboda.

Cabinet positions:
1/ Oleksandr Sych. vice-Prime minister
2/ Ihor Tenyukh, Defence minister
3/ Andreï Mokhnyk, ecology minister
4/ Ihor Shvaika, agriculture minister
5/ Serhiy Kvit. Education & Science minister
6/ Dmitri Boulatov, Sports & Youth minister

Other high-ranking governmental positions:

Andrei Parubiy: Secretarty of the National Security & Defence Council;
Oleg Makhnitsky: State Prosecutor General;
Tatiana Chornovol: Head of the anti-corruption office
Egor Sobolev: in charge of the  Lustration Office;

Collapse )

Ukraine 2014 revisited - Synthesis of the Ukrainian Crisis

Part 2 - The Coup

Translator's note: These series of articles first appeared back in 2014, on a French site Les Crises fr.  There are 3 parts which I have translated. 

At a time, now in 2018, where entire governments & 'leading names',(principally the US, EU, NATO members), seem to readily use the "Blame Russia" narrative, to deflect & cover up their very own woeful inadequacies and failures (political &  military governance), a trip down memory lane is needed, to a time, when events in Ukraine, set the scene for today's geopolitical tussle and  dangerous mud-slinging.

[Translation from French -] 21 May 2014

The movement then swelled up, with a record of 500 000 demonstrators on the 1st of december, the day when the first riots broke out. This movement comprised of 3 political branches, (allied for 2 years) : the right wing “Motherland Party” headed by Yulia Tymochenko (based on a Thatcherite model), the liberal party “Udar” (strike), of Vitali Klitschko, (embraced by the German press as “our man in Kiev and supported by Angela Merkel), and the neo-nazi party “Svoboba”, headed by Oleg Tiagnybok, of which will discussed later. So, it wasn’t essentially a left-wing movement.   Look at this student demonstration “Pro-EU” in Lviv, (a stronghold of nationalist fascism). (Video Link).
Les étudiants d'EuroMaïdan à Lviv - 01-12-2013... par les-crises

Collapse )

Submarine cable security and threats

An overview on between the hype and the reality

According to a UK think tank yesterday:

"Just one little snip" — says  The Telegraph

The hype that some dastardly Russian special operation could sever a number of critical underwater telecommunications cables one go, is plain scaremongering. Sorry folks but this is a bit over the top sensationalism again, by a select few, (think tanks), riding on the Russian hysteria bandwagon, part of the current "resurgent Russia"pantomime being played at the moment. 

Undersea communication lines of cables form the essential network for our global - internet communications

The fact from time to time, unforeseen outages and breaks do happen and have happened since the SS Great Eastern laid the first cables in the 19th century.

Collapse )

Update on ARA San Juan

Information came in from the Argentine Navy spokesman, Capt Balbi, about the likely circumstances of how ARA San Juan encountered difficulties, prior to loss of contact. A situation similar to what expressed by Captain Jorge Bergallo. (Article translated into English in previous blog entry)

Message relayed & transmitted on the situation of the ARA San Juan on 15 November 2017:

English translation:

"Seawater ingress via ventilation system into No.3 battery, causing short-circuiting & start of fire in row of battery banks.  Bow batteries out of service.  Currently submerged, underway with split in circuit.  No updates on crew. Will keep informing"

ARA San Juan: What could have happened by ex commander & father of crewman

Translation from El Clarin

Submarine ARA San Juan: what could have happened, according to a former commander of the ship, and the father of a crew member Jorge Bergallo, who knows the full operation of the vessel, he believes he could have the batteries could have soaked. And he pointed out: "These expectations continue to exist".

Father and son. Captain Jorge Ignacio Bergallo, second in command of the ARA San Juan, next to his dad, who was commander of the same submarine. (photo caption)

Jorge Bergallo is a navy captain, former commander of the ARA San Juan and, in addition, the father of one of the 44 crew members missing along with the submarine since Wednesday, 15th. He states that the ship may have had problems via water ingress and that the explosion could have stopped someone from activating emergency procedures. In addition, he said that "it is not true" that the Navy has said that they are "all dead" and that the ship was in "perfect condition.

It is not true that they are all dead.

It is not true and I don’t wish it was even said. It is one thing on what can be said to a person who is in the Navy and another the official information," said Bergallo. He is the father of Juan Ignacio, second commander of the ARA San Juan and of the tallship Frigate Libertad, who is 42 years old and has a daughter.

Speaking to Radio Mitre, on the Saturday program, Bergallo spoke about his hypothesis about what could have happened on Wednesday, 15.

It is a very particular moment, but also very different to the announcement of the explosion. Because I am a retired Naval officer, I was a submariner and I was even the commander of that submarine. I could well imagine all the things that could have happened, without knowing any of them precisely and without being able to explain otherwise," he said. "From the information of the location, the day and the hour in which the submarine had been probably at the time of the explosion, changes (the situation?) completely. The expectations still exist, although with some different nuances," he said.

His hypothesis has to do with the entry of water into the submarine, which is supported by the message given by crew, which occurred on the same day that contact was lost.

"What is more likely is that you have been using the snorkel, that is to say starting the engine to charge batteries and ventilate the interior. When there are waves of that size, the ship moves a lot," explained Bergallo. Supposing that in that context water may have entered into the ship and that went onto one of the batteries.

"When that happens it is what is called 'emergency snorkelling '. everything is shut down automatically , in seconds. All those onboard knows what you have to do and surface. Cleaned, dried and fitted and then submerge again," he said.

"My peace of mind was that at that time (after the inconvenient event) the submarine transmitted that all was well and continued its trip to Mar del Plata. Asked about if the manoeuvre took place submerged or on the surface, and was submerged, which means that it was resolved, and the message was transmitted normally," he continued.

What could have happened? That once or twice again there was water ingress, causing a total blackout. That is to say, that they remain without power. There were other things to do that, if it had been, talking with other submariners, that weren’t explained why they were not made. Because, from the commander down to the lowest sailor knows perfectly well what to do. Someone could have blown the tanks (which allows you to go to the surface to be more secure). Then I am closed to the fact that there has been an explosion and there has been no one able to go up to where the valves were", he analyzed.

When questioned on the condition of the ship, he was adamant. "The submarine San Juan was in perfect sailing condition.”

Deep-sea investigation and recovery operations - the ARA San Juan

Updated 9 December 2017

End of year update:

Pretty amazing legacy of the intense search, don’t think I’ve seen anything like it in my professional career. I hope that some of #ARASanJuan families are able to see this. I think we take it for granted the exhaustive work that has taken place here. Of course, to note that these are the AIS tracks of ships involved. There were other ships who weren’t on AIS, such as some of the participating Argentine Navy ships- (ARA La Argentina, ARA Robinson, ARA Sarandí, ARA Puerto Argentino at times...).

All of the seagoing US Navy teams and the WHOI research ship RV ‘Atlantis’ have terminated their search in the last week of December.

BZ to all of the multi national ship crews and aircrews!

The last search teams and ships are the:
- Russian Navy ‘Yantar’
- The Argentine Navy ARA ‘Sarandí’ and the ARA ‘Islas Malvinas’ with Russian Navy ROV teams onboard.

1 month of searching for the ARA San Juan: 15 December update.

Deep-sea investigation and potential recovery operations



Once the Argentine submarine, ARA San Juan, is located by the specialist ships and equipments, then robotics systems such as ROVs, will be used to investigate more closely the submarine.

The steps in locating a sunken ship:

  1. bathymetric profiling with multibeam echosounder of the seabed;

  2. by detailed profiling multi-beam sonar array (either an UAV or on a ‘sledge’).  The images obtained are digitally processed & analysed for subsequent verification;

  3. by sending down an ROV for visual inspection of the object.

Source: BAS

The seabed profile of the search is complex: from a fairly flat continental shelf that drops down, with numerous ravines.

For the curious or ocean research aficionados: there is a livestream of the seabed profiling:
Part of it now is the computer screen for the multi beam sonar acquisition data, as part of NOAA ship ‘Okeanos Explorer’.

Hence you might just appreciate the complexity of the operations for locating the ARA San Juan.

Here’s a screen shot from when the Chilean Navy ‘Cabo de Hornos’ was participating in the search:

After location, then it is the turn of the tethered Remotely-operated Vehicles, (ROVs), to get a visual close-up of the submarine’s condition. The ROVs mentioned in the ARA San Juan operation, include the Russian Navy operated Saab Pantera-Plus (depth rating of 1000m) and the US Navy operated Phoenix, (BM2 Sibitzky with a depth rating of 600m), and US CURV-21 (depth rating 6000m onboard RV Atlantis).

The situation as of 9 December

The seabed search continues - Ships with ROV and UAV sonar equipment
RV 'Atlantis', (WHOI)
- has onboard an ROV,  a US Navy CURV 21 ROV (6000m depth rating), especially flown in by air from US.

ARA "Puerto Argentino"
- with US Navy URC equipment onboard
(UAV sonar -Iver 580 UUV with 100m depth rating -withdrawn from operations 2 Dec ?) 1 December - announcement that US NAVY UAV UUV equipment from 'Skandi Patagonia' will be transferred to ARA "Puerto Argentino" (To be confirmed).

ARA "Robinson"
- with Russian Navy ROV equipment onboard
Tethered ROV (300m depth rating?)

ARA "Islas Malvinas"
-with Russian Navy ROV equipment, Pantera -Plus tethered ROV (1000m depth rating)
with deep-sea ROV and 2 submersibles onboard

Ships with multi-beam/ side scan sonar + magnetometer participating in initial search;
Dr. Victor Angelescu (Argentina) — Fisheries oceanopgrahic research vessel
RV Atlantis (USA) Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
ARA Austral — (Argentina) Naval research vessel
Cabo del Hornos (Chile) — Naval research vessel

ARA Puerto Deseado (Argentina) — Naval research vessel
ARA Puerto Argentina —  temporarily outfitted with US Navy sonar equipment
HMS Protector (UK)  Naval research vessel

Yantar (Russia) see below section for more details.

The situation as of 1 December: End of Rescue Phase

The US Navy Undersea Rescue Command press release outlines the equipment sent to Argentina:


List of ships with rescue chambers, PRM,

The 'Skandi Patagonia' (OSV chartered for search ops) - US Navy URC
Norwegian-flagged offshore support ship (OSV)

  • the Submarine Rescue Chamber (SRC)

(Withdrawn from operations 1 December 2017)

The "Sophie Siem" (OSV chartered for search ops) - US Navy URC

  • The Pressurized Rescue Module (PRM), was loaded onto the  ‘Sophie Siem’, after an amazingly fast but extensive outfitting of the ship, to be able to accommodate the equipment and A-frame (for launching & recovering the PRM). The PRM has a depth rating of 600m.

(Withdrawn from operations 1 December 2017)

Brazilian Navy Submarine Rescue ship, the NSS "Felinto Perry" also has a SRC, (a diving bell), and a ROV, (600m depth rating). Arrived in Argentine 29 November.

(Withdrawn from operations 2 December 2017)

Most equipment dedicated to rescuing the crew of a stricken submarine is limited to an average of depth of around 650m or so, because this is the average limit of the fatal  crush (collapse) depth of a submarine.

Infographic showing use of PRM and ROV for sbmarine rescue operations.  Source: La Provincia

Before 1st December

The 'Skandi Patagonia' (OSV chartered for search ops) - US Navy URC
Norwegian-flagged offshore support ship (OSV)

  • the Submarine Rescue Chamber (SRC)

  • a Bluefin Underwater Automous Vehicle (UAV) sonar - (1500m depth rating).

  • Additionally there are also 3 deep-sea ROVs onboard, (one with 9000m rating — unconfirmed)

The "Sophie Siem" (OSV chartered for search ops) - US Navy URC.

  • UAV sonar ?  (Iver 580 UUV?) 100m depth rating

(Both withdrawn from operations 1 December 2017) - It is possible that some sonar equipment has been transferred to the RV 'Atlantis'

NB: None of these ROV have any rescue capabilities, only limited underwater search and reconnaissance and maybe a small robotic arm for sampling or tool manipulation.

Source: Wikipedia SIDE SCAN SONAR

Ships with multi-beam/ side scan sonar participating in search; (27 Nov).

 This is an unprecedented international effort of great magnitude for a loss submarine:

Dr. Victor Angelescu (Argentina) — Fisheries oceanopgrahic research vessel

RV Atlantis (USA) Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

ARA Austral — (Argentina) Naval research vessel

Cabo del Hornos (Chile) — Naval research vessel

ARA Puerto Deseado (Argentina) — Naval research vessel

ARA Puerto Argentina —  temporarily outfitted with US Navy sonar equipment

Skandi Patagonia (Norway) OSV — temporarily  outfitted with US Navy equipment (Withdrawn 30 Nov)

HMS Protector (UK)  Polar patrol & oceanographic vessel (Withdrawn 4th Dec?) TBA

NSS Almirante Maximiano (Brasil) Polar oceanographic vessel (Withdrawn 28 Nov)

Side scan images have appeared on the 1 Dec press briefing given by the Argentine Navy.  The images are of 2 vessels, one a Chinese fishing boat sunk in 2000, the other unknown & uncharted of another fishing boat (?)


The Russian Navy operated ROV is onboard the ARA 'Islas Malvinas" and can go down to 1000m deep.

Source: El Clarin

DEEP-SEA CAPABILTIES - The Russian Navy 'Yantar'

The Russian Navy,’Yantar’, is an 'oceanographic research' ship , which was recently off Angola. It was tasked with participating in the search operation area and has yet to arrive.  Additionally, the Russian navy sent by air, a specialist team, belonging to the Russian Navy's 328th expedition search and rescue unit, as well as another ROV, the Pantera Plus, (1000m depth rating),  which presumably will be loaded onboard the ARA 'Islas Malvinas’ later in the week.

The Russian Navy’s rescue and search capabilities are outlined:  (TASS 23 Nov 17)

Onboard the ‘Yantar’, are 2 submersibles, capable of going down to 6000m.  These are more likely to be used to take samples, to take images and carry out on-site investigation of the submarine in-situ.  It is not a SRC or a PRM and does not have a rescue capability. The submersibles are reportedly the project 16810 Rus-class submersible[4] and the project 16811 Konsul-class submersible.

Both min-subs are equipped with two heavy-duty robotic arms, capable of handling up to 200 kg loads, and are able to carry and control ROVs. They have an operational endurance of around10–12 hours.

Deep-Sea Recovery Operations —  3 examples involving submarines.

One successful recovery of a submarine is the Peruvian 'El Pacocha' in 1989, following a fatal collision and sinking the year before.

Any potential deep-sea recovery effort at is going to be extremely challenging.  Only one submarine, the Soviet nuclear submarine ‘K-129’ had been partly raised from 4.8km depth, that was part of a 6-year long top secret and CIA operation codenamed ‘Project Azorian’ in 1974.

Then there is the salvage of the ‘Kursk’ submarine in 2001, where it was raised from a depth of just over 100m.  A giant Dutch operated barge with 26 cranes was used to lift it from the seabed.  This was in much shallower waters then where the San Juan has disappeared, yet very costly.

The salvage operation was done with a extremely heavy lift salvage barge and using teams of divers to assist.

One has to look at deep-sea commercial salvage operations to see the complexity and difficulty of even raising small loads, such as recovery of silver from the SS 'City of Cairo', torpedoed in 1942 in the Atlantic.

The Arctic - military moves & geopolitical tussles

Russian submarines in the Arctic and competing geopolitical issues.

A trip down memory lane — back to 2014, at a time when there was the autumn "Hunt for the Russian submarine" in Sweden. (Originally published in Nov 2014).

In a month where Theresa May recently spoke about Russian aggression, where the UK media consistently picks out a Russian angle for some fanciful articles, I am reposting this article back from 2014.

Part 1 is a response to an article in the UK media and a brief look at submarine patrols in the Arctic.  Part 2 presents some geopoliticaland military aspects relating to Arctic.  It is still an ongoing issue in 2017 as it was back in 2014.

PART 1 - The Media angle 

Russian submarine patrols in the Arctic - (part of the 2014 Russian submarine saga).

Hold the front page, it's no longer submarines in Sweden, but this time a case involving a mystery sub in the Arctic. The topic of Russia and its military 'creeping around' is growing legs. When will this media 'non-news' about subs and Russia get kicked into touch? Here is the title of the Daily Telegraph article by Ali Kefford in question: "Mystery submarine sighting gives clue to Russia's Arctic ambitions". 

The article starts with "A chance encounter by scientists adrift on an Arctic ice floe has given the first clues to a new Cold War being played out in in the far north, where Vladimir Putin has made no secret of his ambitions to extend Russian influence."

Collapse )

Part 3 - Submarine rescue ships with the Russian Navy

(Written for The Saker website - November 2017)

I’m writing at the same time as an international search for the Argentine submarine, ARA 'San Juan’, is underway. Last reported 250km off the coast of Patagonia, the ‘San Juan’, a German built TR-1700 Class, was already 48 hrs overdue, when the naval authorities made a public announcement.

This comes when in the previous week, Russian Navy divers, have managed a dive down to 317m. (TASS November 2017)1. The divers from the Pacific Fleet’s newest specialist rescue & salvage vessel ‘Igor Belousov’, are now training to achieve a 450m depth. You probably thinking what’s the connection, well, distressed submarines. 

The loss of the Russian submarine K141,‘Kursk’,17 years ago in the Barents Sea, certainly grabbed the world’s attention. The tremendous loss of life not only seriously shook up the Russian Navy’s existing attitude’s towards submarine search & rescue, but of NATO too. 

An outcome of the ‘Kursk’ sinking was the setting up of the International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office, (ISMERLO) based in Lisbon, Portugal, with a database of suitable rescue ships & systems. It is able to coordinate the most appropriate systems quickly to the distressed submarine (DISSUB). As such it is supported by practically all of the 40 or so countries operating submarines, including Argentina & Russia.

This part of the rescue process, ‘Time To First Rescue’, (TTFR) is extremely vital. Similarly to what paramedics & doctors call the ‘Golden Hour’, the sooner a rescue system is put into action, the quicker the assets are sent to the scene, then the better the outcome might be.  Any delays in getting rescue will exponentially be worse. Sadly the Russian authorities learned that lesson in the most painful way in August 2000, but did use it successfully in 2005 though, for a stricken mini-submersible off Kamchatka. (SpaceWar Aug 2005)2

Nowadays, NATO has a Sub Rescue System, NSRS, that includes a rescue system, known as a DSRV, (Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle).  The UK -based system is on permanent standby,  transportable on an aircraft worldwide & can quickly placed on a suitable ship to rescue a stricken sub, if requested.  Additionally, NATO sponsors a regular Submarine Search, Escape and Rescue exercises, known as Dynamic Monarch. The tenth one was held in Turkey this year.

The US Navy too have a crew & a Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System (SRDRS), based out of San Diego, that also can be airlifted worldwide. This has been airlifted down to Argentina on Sunday.

Submariners train for combat, train against adversaries, sometimes other submarines, but that doesn’t mean to say that they’re isn’t a fraternity of submariners worldwide. Reading comments from other submariners, (US,UK) of thoughts towards the stricken crew of the ‘San Juan’, shows this.   Moreover, regular international exercises, and offers of help in the rare event of an emergency shows the high level of international cooperation.

Back to the Russian Navy, the fatal outcome of the Kursk, seriously changed the way that submarine rescue is organised, how training is done and equipment used.  The process of submarine rescues can vary depending on the depth where the stricken submarine is.  An general overview and brief history  of the various rescue systems used is given here (3).

Various rescue methods - Source:
Submarine Rescue using DSRVs

Nowadays, the Russian Navy frequently holds submarine rescue operation drills throughout its Fleets & also from time to time with other nations. There is at least one dedicated ‘rescue’ vessel with each Fleet, (this had been the case at the time of the ‘Kursk' sinking).  Project 21300, ‘Igor Belousov’ is the latest version and it joined the Pacific Fleet in 2016. The crew recently carried a submarine training exercise in the summer with the Chinese Navy, (Janes Oct 2017)4, while in 2016, in the Indian Ocean, the ‘Igor Belousov’ joined in a search operation for a missing Indian Airforce aircraft AN-32.

It is equipped with a deep-sea rescue submersible, called Bester-1, (a DSRV), and a diving bell with a launch-and-recovery system (LARS). The GVK-450 deep-water rescue system, makes it possible to dive to a depth of up to 450 meters and lift sailors to the surface from a distressed submarine.  Bester-1 is a Project 18271, designated as “AS-40". There is also a remotely-controlled vehicle, (ROV),that can go down to 1000m, onboard. (Underwater ROVs are linked to the mothership by a tether; these are routinely used in the oil & gas offshore industry). Necessary decompression is provided for as many as 60 submariners in 4 hyperbaric chambers. The ship isn’t just for sunken submarine rescues but also salvage operations for surface ships as well. The chief designer, Alexander Forst said:

"In the 1960s the Soviet search and rescue fleet was recognized as the best in the world. It is true that these traditions became a little lost, but the rich traditions accumulated over decades and sea rescue experiences are embodied in this ship.”(Sputnik November 2016)5

Likewise, this class of rescue ship is being developed further by the Almaz Central Design Bureau, is upgrading the project in order to put on more hardware and improve stowage & crew quarters. It is anticipated that the improved Igor Belousov-class rescue ship will go into serial production in the next couple of years. (Almaz 2015)6

The Pacific Sea Fleet received the latest rescue ship, largely due to its geographical distribution, with one naval base at Vladivostok and another some distance away on the Kamchatka Peninsula.  

The rescue of a stricken submarine crew is a complex & challenging operation. Hence regular training is undertaken to maintain proficiency on both sides, involving not only the rescuers but rescuees too. Latest Russian submarines have an enhanced built-in escape capsules for their crews.  In one publicised event in 2014, a physical test of the escape pod onboard the ‘Severodvinsk‘ was done. (Barents Observer Nov 2014)7

Northern Sea Fleet    

Mikhail Rudnitsky - Project 5360     Georgy Titov -Project 5360

Pacific Sea Fleet

Igor Belousov -Project 21300.          Grigory Kuzmin  — project 5360

Alagez — Project 537

Black Sea Fleet

Kommuna.              Sayany — Project 5360.       

Baltic Sea Fleet

SS 750 — Project 141 (Kashtan- class)

Table 1: Russian Navy ships with DSRV capabilities 

The Northern Sea Fleet has also two submarine rescue ships, not quite in the same category though as the Belousov Class though, since they are from the Soviet-era. (Sputnik March 2017)8. The Northern Sea Fleet has 2 DRSVs, Project 1855-1 Priz submersibles, including AS-34. This was one of two Russian DSRVs that attempted to rescue the crew of the ‘Kursk’. A total of 4 of these have been upgraded recently and as a result a test dive was held down to 1000m depth. (The Barents Observer August 2017)9.

There is also a rescue ship deployed with the Mediterranean Squadron as well, providing the necessary safety & emergency cover for other Russian vessels.  One example back in 2015, is the Mikhail Rudnitsky Class, Project 5360, ‘Saynay’, that transferred over from the Pacific Sea Fleet. (TASS December 2015)10 It too has a ROV and a pressure chamber.  The arrival of the ‘Saynay’ came at a time when the improved-Kilo class submarines were being commissioned into Black Sea Fleet service. 

Lastly, the Project 18551,Priz-class, DSRVs can also be airlifted to other areas, as well as carried by train or road. If this were to happen, then this has to be a really bad situation, not an ideal situation to occur in a time-critical rescue operation.

In Brief - other ships

Russian Navy Project 537 Osminog-class Alagez Rescue ship was reported to get an upgrade of its rescue  systems back in 2016, and was used prior to the commissioning of the 'Igor Belousov’. (Russian Ships 2017)11. Although it is not known what is the current status of this ship but it does a DSRV carrying capability.

Four modern dedicated rescue ships have come into naval service in the last couple of years including Project 22870. One of these is the ‘Professor Nikolay Muru’,(Russian MOD June 2015)12, whose tasks include firefighting operations and dive support operations up to 60m depth,(with a pressure chamber and an ROV, Falcon-1000, with a depth rating of 1000m). It too has spent some time in the Eastern Mediterranean, supporting the Russian Navy operations.  This generation of ships use dynamic positioning system, (DPS) which holds it in a precise location without anchors.

In this article I have  tried to highlight the principal ships in the Russian Navy that can directly participate in submarine SAR operations.  Of course, there are others that have a dive support or seabed search capabilities of varying specifications.

Of course I couldn’t write about Russian Navy salvage ship without mentioning the truly historic grand lady of the seas, the ‘Kommuna’, serving with the Black Sea Fleet. What has to be probably the oldest serving submarine rescue/salvage ship in the world, and has the title of the longest serving sea-going commissioned Navy ship too. To give credit, here are the specifications: (Wikipedia)13.

Since 2009, the ‘Kommuna’ carries a ROV,(Pantera Plus), which capable of operating to depths of up to 1,000 metres. (Vesti December 2010)14, and also a submarine rescue submersible carrying capability too. Russian MOD 2017)15

There are other ships in the Russian Navy that have heavy lifting capacity, such as the large mooring/buoy tender/rescue ship Project 141 KIL-158.  These could also theoretically assist in submarine rescue operations, with their lift or dive support roles.

The Russian Navy has significantly developed considerable expertise with rescue operations, over recent years. Exercises are carried out using a variety of equipment, including mini-submersibles, (DSRV), ROV robotics, and the use of deep sea diving suits, and diving bells.

Dear reader, as you are probably wondering, no this isn’t exactly an ‘alluringly trendy’ topic, in the same way as one on frigates or missile cruisers.  You’ll have to take my word that this is nevertheless a highly specialist field, that at times can be also highly covert in nature.  Systems that not only can locate & rescue stricken submarines, but also can find other objects on the seabed, carry out inspection or surveillance tasks, or even sometimes repairing or removing things like hydrophones or checking out your adversary’s  “military toys” on the seabed.

Personally, I think that the Russian Navy’s submarine rescue capabilities & resources go some way in shedding the painful legacy over the Kursk. In particular, the growing use of high-tech sea search & rescue equipment is part of the modernisation program. Yet there are still more concerns on PR handling, leadership attitudes rather than physical equipment. However this is an ongoing and inherent problem for many militaries around the world, as we see of late in Argentina.

















The Argentine submarine, ARA San Juan, and the trail of false hope

The ARA San Juan, a TR-1700 submarine, was manufactured in Germany and went into service with the Argentine Navy in 1985. In 2014, a costly mid-life refitted was carried out in Argentina, during which the rear section of the submarine was cut in half, so as to replace its engines and batteries. The submarine's captain had reported problems with its electrical power system, likely to be a battery failure, before it stopped communicating and vanished.

It disappeared some 240nm off the San Jorge Gulf area, (432 km in landlubber speak), at the edge of the Patagonian continental shelf in the South Atlantic. The search area had a size of over 480,000 square km, (roughly the size of Spain).

From 18 November onwards, the Argentine Navy started a lost submarine, (DISSUB), search off Patagonia. Over a week, this grew into a comprehensive international SAR. Operations.  Brazil, Chile, Canada, Colombia, France, Germany, Peru, Spain, South Africa, Uruguay, UK and US all were contributing resources helping with the search in some way or other for the missing submarine.

Situation by 21 Nov:

-Despite 11 countries, by air and on sea – searching for SIX days, a sub that needed to be found;

-Despite false positives such as noises or satellite signals, proven not to be from the submarine ;

-Despite 2 dedicated ASW P-8 US Navy aircraft, several Argentine ASW aircraft with sonobuoys and NASA aircraft;

Collapse )