Escape From L.A.
I was kind of surprised to learn that the Sub Force hadn't conducted an actual open ocean ESCAPEX from a submarine at sea in over 30 years -- until last Saturday, that is. Navy NewsStand has an interesting story of the escape exercise the USS Los Angeles (SSN 688) did up in Alaska:
Seven personnel practiced locking out from the attack submarine USS Los Angeles (SSN 688) and ascending to the surface wearing special suits that are designed to enable a free ascent from a stricken submarine Dec. 2 during ESCAPEX at the Navy’s Southeast Alaska Acoustic Measurement Facility in Ketchikan, Alaska...Pictures from the exercise are here and here. The last one shows FT2(SS) Halsey reaching the surface while wearing his Submarine Escape and Immersion Equipment, pictured below:
...The MK10 Submarine Escape Immersion Equipment, or SEIE, allows survivors to escape a disabled submarine at depths down to 600 feet, at a rate of eight or more men per hour. It is designed to enable a free ascent from a stricken submarine and provides protection for the submariner on reaching the surface until rescued. The assembly is comprised of a submarine escape and immersion suit, an inner thermal liner and a gas inflated single seat life raft, all contained in an outer protective stowage compartment.
For the exercise, Los Angeles embarked six U.S. Navy divers, as well as a British diver from the Royal Navy. The submarine submerged to 130 feet, where each of the seven divers donned the SEIE suits, entered the escape trunk, and ascended.
Chief Navy Diver (DSW/SW) Sean Daoust, a submarine escape instructor at the Naval Submarine School in Groton, Conn., was the first to ascend. Daoust said he was honored to be the first to escape from a U.S. nuclear-powered submarine, and couldn’t wait to return to his students with his firsthand knowledge...
...After Daoust, there were three tandem escapes. Los Angeles crew member Fire Control Technician 2nd Class (SS) Gary Halsey was one of the Sailors given the chance to participate in a tandem escape. While thrilled at the experience, Halsey also said it was reassuring to know that the escape system works.
It looks a lot more useful than the old Steinke hoods (pictured here). I admit that I'm one of those who thought that escape training was kind of a waste of time, and useful only for making our womenfolk feel better. (Plus, I was part of the generation of submariners that never got to go through an Escape Tower; all we had was the escape trainer in a pool. In a couple years, though, they're going to have a brand-new one in Groton.)
Here's what concerned me -- you know how everyone knew about the "golden needle" the Doc would have to use on you before you ascended? What if only the Engine Room was unflooded, and the Doc wasn't back there? Would you trust some MMC(SS) with anything sharp anywhere near your eardrum right before getting into the Escape Trunk? I certainly wouldn't. I always figured that if I ended up in that situation, I'd stay with the boat until the DSRV arrived.