“The tragedy has focused attention on the lack of submarine rescue equipment in the navy. It would have been an absolute disaster had the accident taken place 100 metres under water,” said former navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash.
When former President APJ Abdul Kalam went on a sortie on the INS Sindhurakshak in 2006, India had to request the US Navy to deploy its DSRVs and other rescue equipment in case something went wrong.
The Indian Navy does have an understanding with the US Navy to make use of their DSRVs to rescue submariners, but it may not be immediately available.
A DSRV can rescue 24 sailors at one go from an ocean, linking up with a wrecked submarine’s hatch.
The two navies had conducted a joint exercise last year — INDIAEX-2012 — to “rescue” submariners trapped under the sea. The navy, currently, only has basic underwater rescue facilities.
Navy officials said in case of a disaster during a patrol thousands of miles away from home shores, the crew members would only have pressurised escape suits to count on. “Even these pressurised suits are helpful only if the submarine is at a certain depth. If it’s deep down below, they are ineffective,” a navy official said.
The navy could carry out rescue with the help of diving support vessels such as INS Nireekshak, but again there are limitations if rescue has to be carried out below a certain depth.