(U.S. Navy photo)

Undersea Rescue Command (URC) and the Chilean submarine CS Simpson (SS 21) completed the submarine search and rescue exercise CHILEMAR VIII off the coast of San Diego, Aug. 3-7, 2018.

CHILEMAR is a bilateral exercise designed to demonstrate interoperability between the United States submarine rescue systems and Chilean submarines, which includes a search and rescue phase. This is the eighth exercise of its kind and is conducted off the coast of San Diego biennially with the exception of CHILEMAR VII, which took place in 2017 off the coast of Talcauhano, Chile.


"CHILEMAR and similar exercises with our foreign partners are extremely important to Undersea Rescue Command as they provide nearly all of our opportunities to operate with an actual submarine," said Cmdr. Michael Eberlein, commanding officer, Undersea Rescue Command. "These exercises provide assurance to our Navy, allies, Sailors and families, that URC can bring a real capability to rescue distressed submariners worldwide if a tragedy occurs."

At the start of the exercise, Simpson bottomed off the coast of San Diego to simulate a disabled submarine that is unable to surface. Once bottomed, Simpson launched a Submarine Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (SEPIRB) which transmits the initial GPS position and other distress data to indicate a submarine in distress.

Undersea Rescue Command deploys the Sibitzky Remotely Operated Vehicle from the deck of the Military Sealift Command-chartered merchant vessel HOS Dominator during the submarine rescue exercise CHILEMAR VIII.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Derek Harkins)

MH-60R helicopters from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 35 and 45, a P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft from Patrol Squadron (VP) 9 and unmanned undersea vehicles from the newly established Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Squadron (UUVRON) 1 conducted simulated searches of the ocean floor to hone their ability to identify a bottomed disabled submarine.

With Simpson located, the Military Sealift Command-chartered merchant vessel HOS Dominator positioned itself over their location to launch the Sibitzky Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV). During a rescue, the Sibitzky ROV provides the first picture of a disabled submarine to URC. Using two robotic arms, the ROV is able to clear any debris from the hatch used for rescue and cameras provide critical information necessary for conducting a rescue such as the hull integrity of the submarine and its position on the ocean floor.

Navy Diver 1st Class Michael Eckert, assigned to Undersea Rescue Command (URC), serves as the aft compartment controller for URC's pressurized rescue module (PRM), as the PRM mates with the Chilean Submarine (CS) Simpson (SS 21) on the ocean floor during CHILEMAR VIII.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Derek Harkins)

"Over the years, we have built a great relationship with the Chilean Submarine Force through the DESI program," said Cmdr. Josh Powers, Submarine Squadron 11 deputy for undersea rescue. "This partnership allows us to continually build upon our rescue capabilities and the proficiency of both countries that comes with routine exercises such as CHILEMAR."

Once the Sibitzky ROV has completed its assessment of the disabled submarine, the Pressurized Rescue Module can be deployed from the back of the Dominator. The PRM is a remotely operated submarine rescue vehicle capable of diving to depths of 2,000 feet and mating with a disabled submarine on the sea floor. The PRM is capable of rescuing up to 16 personnel at a time in addition to the two crewmembers required to operate it.

Chilean Cmdr. Federico Karl Saelzer Concha, commanding officer of the Chilean Submarine (CS) Simpson (SS 21), climbs into the pressurized rescue module (PRM) of Undersea Rescue Command (URC) during the submarine rescue exercise CHILEMAR VIII.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Derek Harkins)

During CHILEMAR VIII, the PRM completed three open hatch mattings with the Simpson, allowing U.S. and Chilean Sailors to traverse between the PRM and the submarine to shake hands with each other on the ocean floor.

"The exercises conducted during CHILEMAR demonstrated the advanced rescue capability our Navy provides the world," said Lt. Cmdr. Pat Bray, Submarine Squadron 11 engineering officer. "The operations carried out by the dedicated URC and Phoenix team were impressive!"

Undersea Rescue Command deploys the Sibitzky Remotely Operated Vehicle from the deck of the Military Sealift Command-chartered merchant vessel HOS Dominator during the submarine rescue exercise CHILEMAR VIII.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Derek Harkins)


URC's mission is worldwide submarine assessment, intervention and expedient rescue if there is a submarine in distress. The PRM is the primary component of the Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System (SRDRS), which can be transported by truck, air or ship to efficiently aid in international submarine rescue operations.

Simpson is operating with U.S. 3rd Fleet naval forces as part of the Diesel-Electric Submarine Initiative (DESI). DESI enhances the Navy's capability to operate with diesel-electric submarines by partnering with South American navies equipped with these vessels. This provides a degree of authenticity and realism to exercises, providing the Navy with opportunities to build experience both tracking and operating with them.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.