Kurtaran 2019 Military Exercise

Planned by Turkish Naval Forces, the Kurtaran-19 Military Exercise was executed from 27-31 May 2019 under the management and control of the Northern Area Sea Command in the Aksaz/Marmaris region. The aim of this military exercise is to rescue submarine personnel not capable of reaching the surface through the utilization of the Turkish Naval Forces Command vessels.

Date: Issue 93 - July 2019

The TCG Gelibolu Frigate, TCG Alemdar Submarine Rescue Mother  Ship, TCG Işın and TCG Akın Rescue and Towing Ships, TCG Köyceğiz Patrol Boat, TCG Akçay Minehunter Vessel, TCG Dolunay, TCG I. İnönü and TCG Gür Submarines and Six Coast Guard Boats attended the drill as surface ships. In addition, one S-70B ASW/ASuW Helicopter of the Turkish Naval Forces Command (TNFC), one C-130 cargo aircraft of the Turkish Air Force Command (TurAFC), one AS-532 Cougar helicopter of the Turkish Land Forces Command (TLFC) and one U.S. Navy Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) were present at the military exercise. 

Moreover, an international organization – the International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office (ISMERLO), a total of 35 distinguished observers from 18 different countries, representatives from the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning, Ministry of Health, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Industry and Technology, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, Directorate General of Meteorology as well as press members attended the military exercise. 

The Kurtaran Military Exercise commenced on 27 May 2019 with a briefing and the introduction of the vessels attending the exercise. On 28 May following the alarm given as  three submarines settled onto their assigned areas, the search phase started and ROV identification and survey activities were executed in pursuit, and search and rescue forces identified the position of the submerged disabled submarines. 

On 29 May, the press day of the military exercise began with a press statement made at the TCG Alemdar Ship, Rescue and Submarine Commander Col. Niyazi UĞUR gave detailed information to the press on the military exercise and the activities to be conducted. Following the press meeting, the submarines participating in the exercise started to dive at different locations in the 24 square mile area assigned and played the role of submarines that were incapable of reaching the surface.

The first activity of the day was the airborne intervention to rescue the survivors who wore their special escape suits and had reached the surface from the submarine. The Para Rescue Team (PRT) responded to personnel acting as survivors. Arriving at the scene of the accident with a C-130 cargo aircraft, the team of 12 jumped in 3 parts as the aircraft made 3 passed over the submariners waiting to be rescued after the detection of the signal flare fired by the survivors. The Parachute Search and Rescue Team quickly inflated several life rafts and bound them together which created a support base. They used the RHIBs to collect the survivors from the water and immediately responded to those requiring first aid. 

As per the scenario, the survivors were transferred to the TCG Alemdar arriving at the accident scene and the first response to these survivors was made by the Submarine Evacuation and Rescue Team on the ship. During the triage, the medical status of the survivors was examined and the ones facing respiratory distress were located at the two Constant Pressure Chambers, each with 22-person capacity, aboard the TCG Alemdar ship. One of the survivors with a fracture had his x-ray taken in the x-ray room on the ship while a survivor in critical condition had a surgery in the operating room on the aboard. A survivor who needs to be taken to full-fledged hospital on the ground was disembarked with an AS-532 Cougar helicopter of the TLFC. 

During the next phase of the military exercise, the TCG Alemdar ship launched search activities for the TCG I. İnönü Submarine acting as a submarine that was not capable of the surface. The location of the submarine was precisely identified thanks to the active sonar and multi-beam sounder on the ship. The communication was established with the submarine that settled onto the seabed at a depth of nearly 75 meters via an underwater telephone and the damage of the submarine as well as its immediate requirements were acquired. On account of the dynamic positioning system aboard the TCG Alemdar, the ship was positioned over the TCG I. İnönü Submarine and by constantly and automatically adjusting its position according to the wind and sea state, using its active position controlling systems, the rescue ship was able to stay on the exact spot for the remainder of the exercise.

After the detection of the position of the submarine incapable of surfacing, the remotely operated underwater vehicle, dubbed as TCB İstakoz-1 that made in Turkey and capable of functioning at a depth of up to 1,000 meters, was launched at sea. In addition to the emergency life support packages taken to the submarine, ROV was used for many critical tasks such as the connection of hoses for the ventilation of fresh air, and was directed by two pilots. As one of the pilots moves the vehicle under the water, the other one operates its bars with 7 functions. 

After TCB İstakoz-1 transferred the first images of the submarine to the ship, the Atmospheric Diving System was launched at sea. This system enables the diver inside it to operate for long durations up to 365 meters underwater without getting affected by the pressure, brought the emergency life support package that was launched at sea from the ship to the submarine. This support package was placed on the hatch over the concertina at the sail of the submarine by the 1st Class Diving qualified staff within the Atmospheric Diving System (ADS), this diver inside the ADS then returned to the TCG Alemdar ship and took the wire belonging to the Submarine Rescue Chamber which would be launched at sea in the next stage, dived underwater and joined this wire to the hatch of the submarine. 

All these operations were monitored from the TCG Alemdar via the cameras installed both on the ADS and TCB İstakoz-1 and confirmed whether all operations were executed as necessary. Following the ADS’ installation to the ship, the McCann rescue chamber named after its inventor, also officially known as the Submarine Rescue Chamber, was launched at sea. This diving bell capable of operating at a depth of up to 207 meters is able to dock with the submarine with an internal pressure of 1 atmosphere and can carry the submarine staff to the surface. It is capable of taking a total of 8 personel with its two operators. The rescue chamber used the steel guide wire fixed to the submarine and docked with the submarine by reaching over the hatch as mentioned previously. Following the evacuation of the water between the chamber and the submarine and pressure equalization, the hatch of the submarine was opened and two submariners entered the chamber and it resurfaced.

After the Submarine Rescue Chamber followed the guide wire and reached the surface, the staff was transferred to the ship and the bell was removed from the sea. As TCB İstakoz-1 disconnected the guide wire installed over the submarine, both the wire and the remote controlled underwater vehicle were taken to the TCG Alemdar ship. Later on, as the press day stage of the military exercise ended, the TCG I. İnönü Submarine reached the surface again and returned to Aksaz Naval Base with the TCG Alemdar.

On 30 May, training was provided for the freestyle safe exit of the staff from the concertina of the submarine by using the MK-10 escape suit and thus the rescue of the remaining staff onboard the TCG I. İnönü Submarine which was at a depth of 30 meters. The military exercise was completed with the evaluation meeting held on 31 May.

The Kurtaran-2019 Military Exercise is significantly different from the Sorbet Royal or Dynamic Monarch series military exercises previously organized under the auspices of NATO as the search and rescue activities were conducted simultaneously by three different ships for three submarines. 

The First Class Diving qualified staff working at the Underwater Rescue Command to search, find and rescue staff serving on 12 submarines in the Turkish Naval Forces and are the most critical and strategic striking power; this capability is possessed only by very few countries in the world