August 5, 2005

US Navy submersibles joining Russia sub rescue

By Charles Aldinger

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two little unmanned U.S. Navy
submarines were being loaded aboard a cargo plane in California
on Friday to join an attempt to rescue seven Russian sailors
trapped in a military mini-submarine on the Pacific floor.

The remote-controlled, deep-diving "Super Scorpio"
submersibles were to depart San Diego for Petropavolvsk on an
Air Force C-5 later on Friday with a team of Navy operators,
said Lt. JG Maria Miller, a Navy spokeswoman at the Pentagon.

Miller said the underwater vehicles, capable of cutting
through steel cable, would be moved by truck to a Russian ship
to be taken to the scene in an attempt to aid in the rescue.

The submersibles and their operating crews are attached to
the Navy's Deep Submergence Unit based at the naval base in San

The vessels are 4 feet long, 4 feet wide, 8 feet high and
weigh 4,500 pounds(2045 kg). Miller said they were capable of
diving to an ocean depth of 5,000 feet.

"It has the capability of cutting steel cable 1 inch (2.54
cm) thick," she said.

In Russia, officials said they requested help after the
small Russian submarine apparently became tangled in the cable
from a fishing net.

"We're going to move the resources that we think can be
helpful to the scene as rapidly as possible," Pentagon
spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters in Washington. "Efforts
are being led by the Russian government and it (U.S.
assistance) is something that they have asked for."

Whitman noted the U.S. move followed steps by the American
and Russian navies to work more closely in such areas as
undersea rescue. The two militaries conducted a bilateral
undersea rescue exercise in the Mediterranean off the coast of
Italy in June.

"While every situation is certainly unique and presents its
own set of challenges, it's not something that hasn't been
thought through. And it has been rehearsed to some degree and
practiced," the spokesman said.