Help Arrives in Petr'
[Update 2041 06 Aug: My most recent entry is located here.]
[Update 2207 06 Aug: The sub is up, the crew is safe! There'll be vodka toasts in Petr' tonight!]
One British and two American military planes, carrying three Scorpio unmanned underwater vehicles and other equipment, have landed in Petropavlovsk on their way to the trapped Russian AS-28 Pris mini-sub.
" At Russia's request, a British Air Force plane landed Saturday morning at Yelizovo airport near Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky with an underwater Scorpio submersible aboard, Russian Navy spokesman Igor Dygalo told the Itar-Tass news agency.
"The British aircraft was the first to deliver an unmanned Scorpio submersible to save the trapped AS-28 mini-submarine," Dygalo said.
"Two hours after the British plane landed, a US Air Force C-5 transport aircraft touched down carrying two remote-controlled, deep-diving "Super Scorpio" submersibles and 30 Navy operators. It would take several hours for the vehicles to be hauled to the site of the accident.
"A second US plane is expected to deliver a third Super Scorpio submersible at 15:00 Moscow time (1100 GMT). A third US plane is expected to fly in divers and special suits to allow divers to reach extreme depths.
"The lobster-shaped Super Scorpio submersibles are equipped withblack and white video cameras, two robotic arms that can each lift about 250 pounds and a cable cutter that can slice through 2.54 cm-thick steel cables."
This CNN article has more on the arrival of the Americans:
"A U.S. Air Force C-5, loaded with two unmanned submersible rescue vehicles along with 40 submariners, divers and other experts, landed in eastern Russia about 3:15 a.m. ET, a U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman said. A U.S. C-17, carrying equipment and specialists, landed about two hours later...
"Just before 4 a.m. ET, the Russian news agency Interfax reported the rescue equipment would arrive at the mini-sub in about three and a half hours. Russia's deputy naval chief of staff Rear Adm. Vladimir Pepelyayev told Interfax on Saturday the rescue mission should be completed within 24 hours "because the onboard air supply is not limitless."
This Reuters article discusses some of the "controversy" surrounding the information the Russians are putting out:
"Conflicting official accounts of the incident involving the AS-28 mini-submarine have drawn uncomfortable comparisons with the Kursk nuclear submarine disaster five years ago.
"All 118 men on board on board the Kursk, which sank in the Barents Sea in August 2000, died after a botched rescue, over which President Vladimir Putin was fiercely criticises at home for failing to call for international help sooner.
"We must complete the operation in 24 hours because the supply of air on board is not without limit," Interfax news agency quoted the deputy chief of navy staff, Vladimir Pepelyaev, as saying.
"It is believed that there is still enough air for slightly more than 24 hours," Pepelyaev added.
Initial offical reports said the AS-28, itself a rescue vessel, ran into trouble when its propeller became entangled in fishing nets during a military exercise. They said it had five days' supply of air -- more than enough for any rescue mission.
"However, about 1100 BST on Friday, naval spokesman Igor Dygalo said the trapped vessel had only 24 hours' worth of air left. There was no official explanation why estimates of air remaining still stood at 24 hours on Saturday morning."
I'm prepared to give the Russians the benefit of the doubt on this one. Initial reports on incidents like this are almost always wrong; someone in the capital talking to someone several thousand miles away gets told what someone's best guess is about what's happening, and reports it to the press as fact. Then, as actual information comes in, people assume that the officials were lying when the story changes; particularly when the government in question has a history of lying about submarine accidents. But especially when your getting reports of oxygen left on board, the crew will be constantly revising their estimates based on actual numbers -- particularly like in this case, where they have more than the normal complement on board, power's probably pretty low (I imagine they wasted a lot of battery power trying to drive free), and they're not really sure about how effective any CO2 scrubbing they're doing is until they see some trends. So, what the Russians are saying now passes the "smell test" for me...
I'm off to work again, and won't be blogging until this evening. Check out the submarine group blog Ultraquiet No More for continued updates throughout the day.
Update 2209 06 Aug: Welcome to all the Instapundit readers dropping by! I last saw you in June when I covered asshat Fred Phelps and his attempted debasing of CPL Carrie French's funeral. Welcome back, and I'm glad we're now talking about the success of the rescue effort. Submariners are a strange breed; we may spend all our time thinking about how to sink each other at sea, but "brothers of the 'phin" from different countries really have as much, or more, in common with each other than with many of our countrymen. It's that kind of life.
And while you're here, you should check out Ninme's wonderful blog. She's not a submariner, but she says such nice things about me...