A Russian mini-submarine that was trapped for 3 days beneath the Pacific ocean was brought to the surface on Sunday with all 7 people aboard alive after a British underwater robot helped rescue the vessel slicing through nets and debris entangling it.
The Russian minisub AS-28 ‘Priz’, trapped 190 metres down, surfaced at 8:45 am IST and its crew independently opened the hatch and boarded the rescue boat.
The condition of the crew members is ‘satisfactory,’ Rear Admiral Vladimir Pepelyayev said. They had been given necessary medical assistance on board the missile ship.
He also thanked the British naval experts for freeing the mini-sub. "I want to thank our English collegues for the help in the rescue operation," Pepelyaev told reporters in Moscow.
For over three days, it was a race against time as oxygen was rapidly depleting inside the mini-sub which had got entangled in the fishing net and cables of underwater electronic surveillance system attached with 60-tonne concrete anchorage.
The Russian navy had asked for urgent help from the US and Japan. However, the British were the first to airlift their deep diving Scorpio robots with mechanical arms capable of ‘chewing’ thick steel cables.
During routine operations in the Beryozovaya Bay on the Pacific coast in Kamchatka on August 4, the deep-sea diving apparatus AS- 28’s propeller hit a fishing net. The apparatus got tangled in the net when it tried to free its propeller.
The 44-foot mini-sub, capable of diving up to a depth of 1000 metres, was stuck at the depth of some 190 metres in the Berezovaya Bay, about 42 nautical miles from the regional centre Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski.On Friday, after it was established that oxygen would last only for another 24 hours on board the ill-fated mini-sub, the Russian navy through its Foreign Ministry requested assistance from the Japanese and US navies in rescuing the mini-sub, which, paradoxically, itself was designed to salvage sunken subs.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov, who left on saturday for the site to monitor the rescue operation, reached in time to oversee the quick progress made by the British robot.
The British rescue craft worked for several hours to cut the vessel free of the debris after the Russians efforts to rescue the sub’s crew failed.
The commander of Russia’s Pacific Fleet had earlier dismissed allegations made by a former Russian Black Sea Fleet commander that US and British participation in efforts to rescue the crew of the sunken Russian mini-submarine may expose Russian military secrets to NATO.
"There are undoubtedly restrictions in this region for reasons of secrecy, for example as regards the entry of submarines to the base. But I can’t see any special problems with the participation of foreign rescuers in the operation to raise the mini-submarine," chief of the Pacific Fleet Adm. Viktor Fyodorov told Interfax denying charges of devulging military secrets.
"The main goal for us is to save the crew. Moreover, such joint operations bring naval sailors closer together, in this case, Russian, US, British and Japanese sailors."
In the Soviet era, foreign vessels were barred from the region, but today there are the two Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties – START-1 and START-2, – ‘we have similar underwater facilities,’ and ‘international inspectors are working both in the United States and in Russia,’ Admiral Fyodorov said.
The rescue operation came to a happy ending unlike the Kursk submarine disaster five years ago in which all 118 crewmen died.