The French nuclear attack submarine SSN Suffren carried out an individual evacuation exercise through the submarine airlock, in Toulon harbor, as part of its qualifications on July 6. 2021.
French Navy press release
Intended to evacuate personnel one by one from a submarine in distress on the seabed, individual evacuation is a complementary means to collective evacuation using mini rescue submersibles like the NSRS (Nato Submarine Rescue System).
Many actors were mobilized, including the Individual Rescue Training Center (CESI), which trained the personnel in its facility on Ile Longue in Brittany (West of France), and provided divers to ensure the safety of the personnel exiting the airlock, as well as three volunteers to participate in the rescue operations. The group of mine-clearing divers of the Mediterranean and the CEPHISMER (Cell of submarine operations divers) also provided support and safety for the diving in the area. They were also able to successfully test the “POD POSTING” – the reception of a cylindrical container resistant to the pressure of immersion, designed to supply a submarine in distress.
The Toulon port facilities department was responsible for manoeuvring the trunk and holding the SSN throughout the exercise. Lastly, maritime police and fusiliers battalion ensured the policing of the water, which is particularly necessary at this time of the year.
The whole exercise was covered by the operational training for surveillance and territorial information (FOSIT), providing images and videos for the feedback of this rare type of exercise. The last real seagoing sinking exercise was in 2007 on a Rubis-class SSN. These exercises are necessary to guarantee the know-how of the forces in the field of survival-rescue.
This real evacuation exercise (ESCAPEX) from a submerged submarine was carried out as part of the second phase of verification of the military capabilities of the SSN Suffren, which aims to evaluate the ship’s performance before its admission to active service.