Navy, Coast Guard Divers Recover Torpedoes in Freezing Arctic

Chief Hospital Corpsman Kristopher Mandaro, assigned to Underwater Construction Team One (UCT 1), surfaces from a waterhole during a torpedo exercise in the Arctic Circle in support of Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2018, March 16. (U.S. Navy photo/Daniel Hinton) ARCTIC CIRCLE — Divers from U.S. Navy Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) Two, Underwater Construction Team (UCT) One and the U.S. Coast Guard braved harsh Arctic waters to play a critical role during a torpedo exercise as part of Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2018.

ICEX 2018 is a five-week biennial exercise that allows the Navy to assess its operational readiness in the Arctic, increase experience in the region, advance understanding of the Arctic environment, and continue to develop relationships with other services, allies and partner organizations.

During the exercise, the Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) and the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) each fired several training torpedoes under the ice. Training torpedoes have no warheads and carry minimal fuel.

"The primary objective of this year’s ICEX is to test new under-ice weapons systems and validate tactics for weapon employment," said Ryan Dropek, Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport, RI Weapons Test Director. "Once the divers recover these torpedoes, we can extract important data about how they perform and react in these conditions."

After the submarines fire the torpedoes, helicopters transport gear and personnel to the location where the positively-buoyant torpedo is expected to run out of fuel. Each torpedo has a location device in order to assist in the search. Once found, a 3-4 person team will then drill a series of holes for the divers to enter and exit, as well as one hole for the torpedo to be lifted by helicopter.

"Once we know the location of the torpedo and drill holes, our divers slip into the water to begin placing weights on a line attached to the tail end of the torpedo," Chief Warrant Officer Michael Johnson, officer-in-charge of MDSU-2 divers, explained. "The weights help shift the torpedo from a state of positive buoyancy to neutral buoyancy under the ice."

Once the torpedo is neutral, the divers place brackets with cables to the top and bottom of the body of the torpedo. A helicopter then connects to the torpedo before lifting it vertically out of the hole.

The three dive teams completed additional training in preparation for diving in the unique environment of the Arctic Ocean.

"To prepare for ICEX, we completed training at the Coast Guard’s Cold Water Ice Diving (CWID) course and earned our ordnance handling certification from the Naval Undersea Warfare Center," said Johnson. "Additionally, each unit completed MK48 Torpedo recovery training and Unit Level Training (ULT) classroom training on hypothermia, frostbite, ice camp operations, dry-suit, and cold-water ice diving."

The USCG CWID course is a two-week course in Seattle, WA hosted by the USCG instructors at Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center (NDSTC) which focuses on the use of equipment and diving operations in harsh Arctic waters. During the course, divers complete a diving practical in Loc de […]