Sunday, January 11, 2015

RF Navy Acquiring Eight Deep-Water Work Submersibles by 2017

DeepWorker 2000 (forward) and Dual DeepWorker (aft) deep-water work submersibles
[credit: Nuytco Research Ltd]
In a press release today, the RF Ministry of Defense reported that two ARS-600 new-generation manned underwater deep-submergence vehicles would join the RF Navy in 2015. Another two joined the RF Navy in 2014. So, what are these submersibles?

The DeepWorker (DW) single-person and Dual DeepWorker (DDW) two-person submersibles (identified by the Russians as "ARS-600" (autonomous work submersible-600 meters)) allow one pilot (DW) or one pilot + one passenger (DDW) to operate underwater at depths of 1,000-3,000 feet, depending on the model and configuration. The submersibles can remain submerged (tethered or untethered) for up to six hours during normal operations. The submersibles can be used to:

  • search for and examine a submerged object;
  • retrieve submerged objects weighing up to 80 kg;
  • attach lines to objects weighing more than 80 kg, then deliver the line ends to a surface vessel that can then lift the objects;
  • clear the rescue hatch cover of a distressed submarine so that a deep-submergence rescue vehicle (DSRV) can land on the hatch to rescue the submarine crew;
  • attach hoses to provide high-pressure air and ventilation to a distressed submarine;
  • perform other operations.

The RF Navy has been testing the DW/DDW submersibles since at least 2012. Russian Navy head Admiral Chirkov visited the MOD's Scientific Research Institute of Rescue and Undersea Technologies (Lomonosov) in June 2012 to get a first-hand look at the submersibles. Reporting to date indicates the new Belousov-class submarine rescue vessel "Igor Belousov" will be equipped with at least one DW/DDW. Other vessels not permanently equipped to support the DW/DDW, such as Kashtan- and Sura-class heavy-lift vessels, could be quickly configured to serve as temporary Vessels of Opportunity (VOO), as needed.

Civilian research vessel "Heather Sea" - February 8, 2013
[credit: Stanislav Kruglov]
A possible link to Seliger-class research vessel "Seliger" (owned and operated by the Ministry of Defense's Main Directorate for Deep-Water Research, or GUGI) and November 2014 DW/DDW testing suggests it, too, may be temporarily or permanently equipped with the submersibles at some point in the future. For at least five days in November, the Russian-flagged civilian research vessel "Heather Sea" served as a VOO for the testing of two DW/DDW submersibles along the Russian Black Sea coast between Novorossiysk and Sochi. As it was underway and in the immediate vicinity of the "Heather Sea" operations, "Seliger" either played a support role and/or was actually involved in retrieving and launching the submersibles. Click here for a video showing the two vessel's operations between November 13 and November 20.

The November testing was in jeopardy of being delayed due to personnel matters. A month before departing Varna, Bulgaria, the owners of "Heather Sea" were accused of not paying wages to the ship's employees. On November 6, the ship's chief engineer, Albert Andrianov, sent an on-line petition to the State Labor Commission for assistance in getting his company to pay RUB 700,000 in wage arrears (from mid-June through October). Following the commission's intervention, the company paid the engineer's wages through September. A week later, "Heather Sea" was in Anapa, Russia.

Track of "Heather Sea" - January 11, 2015
After the DW/DDW testing in November, "Heather Sea" remained in Novorossiysk until departing port at approximately 07:00 GMT this morning. It is unclear whether "Heather Sea" is performing additional operations with DW/DDW submersibles or some other tasking, but "Seliger" does not appear to be underway.

To date, at least eight DW/DDW submersibles have been ordered for the fleet (excluding the DW/DDW submersible(s) tested in Lomonosov). The first four were to be delivered in 2014, with another two to be delivered to Baltiysk in 2016, and a final pair to be delivered to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy in 2017. It is not clear if the two DW/DDW used in the November 2014 testing were from the first batch of four that were scheduled for delivery in 2014 or the two that were previously delivered to the MOD's Scientific Research Institute of Rescue and Undersea Technologies by 2012.