On Security Blankets

It’s not often that a piece of equipment is retired without ever being needed.

Occassionally, that’s an incredibly good thing.

The Mystic (DSRV 1) was a small, 49-foot-long minisub able to dive nearly a mile beneath the ocean’s surface to rescue sailors trapped in a sunken submarine. It was the first of two submersibles the Navy built following the 1963 loss of the submarine Thresher. The other deep submergence rescue vehicle, Avalon, was inactivated in 2000.

Neither mini-sub had the chance to carry out a real underwater rescue, but just knowing the craft were available improved morale.

“They were there, they would have been capable if they were needed,” said Mickey Garverick, director of the Naval Submarine League and a former submarine commander.

mystic-hatch

Always on call. Never needed. I like the sound of that because, while it is comforting to know the capability is there, it’s still a little unnerving to come aboard a sub when the big white plus-signs are painted on the hatches so the DSRV can see them in the dark.

So what’s replacing this vital capability you ask? Behold the FALCON, part of the Submarine Rescue and Diving Recompression System (SRDRS).

The Falcon, a key component of the new Submarine Rescue and Diving Recompression System that replaces the Mystic, is half as heavy as its predecessor and carries eight fewer passengers. But because it draws power from its launch ship continuously through an umbilical line, the Falcon doesn’t need to pause during a rescue to recharge its batteries as the Mystic and Avalon did.

Navy officials tested the new system last summer during drills in the Baltic Sea involving subs from Norway, the Netherlands and Poland, Cotten said. The Falcon was successfully used to retrieve 200 people.

Let’s hope this system is never needed either.

But I still want it there. You know, just in case.

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