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Submarine rescue exercise Pacific Reach wraps up in Australia

16 November 2019

From Lt. Danielle Moser, Submarine Squadron 11

The 10th triennial exercise demonstrated regional submarine abandonment and escape rescue capabilities.

ROCKINGHAM, Australia - The 10th triennial exercise Pacific Reach (PACREACH) concluded in Western Australia with closing ceremony at Fleet Base West, Nov. 15.

PACREACH aims to ensure interoperability between the international submarine rescue community sponsored by the Asian Pacific Submarine conference. The exercise objectives included the ability to demonstrate regional submarine abandonment and escape rescue (SAER) capabilities through simulated submarine rescue missions utilizing various partner nations submarines, submarine rescue equipment and platforms.

“PACREACH demonstrates our nations commitment to our coalition partners and our allies to be ready to conduct rescue operations around the globe in the event that a submarine crew were to be disabled,” said Rear Adm. Douglas Perry, commander, Submarine Group 9. “PACREACH really is the pinnacle international submarine rescue exercise.”

​According to exercise leaders, perhaps the highlight of the exercise took place at sea on Nov. 13 when the Australians and U.S. simultaneously operated rescue systems, completing five open hatch mates to Royal Australian Navy Collins-class HMAS Sheean (SSG 77) in a 13-hour period, while operating within 300 meters of each other.

“The was the first ever successful dual rescue operations to be conducted,” said Cmdr. John Babick, Submarine Squadron 11 deputy for Undersea Rescue Command (URC). “This was significant because we were able to use multiple rescue systems during the simulated rescues, proving that we can minimize the time to rescue survivors from a disabled submarine.”

PACREACH principal participants included the United States, Republic of Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Australia and Singapore. However, 12 additional countries took part in the exercise as observers of submarine rescue operations.

“This exercise is an example of the importance of operating with international partners” said Capt. Patrick Friedman, commander, Submarine Squadron 11. “Being able to successfully conduct rescue operations with multiple nations not only increases rescue efficiency, but it also builds the foundation for joint operations necessary to achieve common theater security objectives.”

Between the three participating rescue systems, the U.S. Navy Pressurized Rescue Module (PRM), the Royal Australian Navy submarine rescue vessel, LR5, and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force deep-submergence rescue vehicle, 31 total manned dives were executed. Additionally, nine open hatch mates and personnel transfers were completed with HMAS Sheean and the Republic of Korea diesel-electric attack submarine ROKS Lee Sunsin (SSK-068).

​“This whole exercise has been interesting and a lot of fun,” said Navy Diver 2nd Class Cody Blackburn, assigned to URC. “Getting to practice with our international partners was a great experience, because if there ever was a real event, we now have better knowledge and more comfortable working with several different rescue assets. It gives us confidence knowing we can do our job in conjunction with others, and complete the rescue as quickly as possible.”

During the exercise principle nations completed over 70 hours of combined diving time, resulting in the increased qualification of Navy divers across participating nations and enhancing the knowledge of the submarine rescue community, as a whole.

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