Keyport U.S. Naval Undersea Museum Hosts DSRV Reunion

Photo By Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Batchelder | 180728-N-EH218-0024 KEYPORT, Wash. (July 28, 2018) Retired U.S. Navy Master Chief… read more

KEYPORT, Wash. – The U.S. Naval Undersea Museum hosted the first ever deep submergence rescue vehicle (DSRV) reunion in the Pacific Northwest in Keyport, Wash., July 28.

The reunion included DSRV 1 Mystic, on display outside, and a speaker panel of three former DSRV pilots who came together to share stories and personal recollections of working within the DSRV program.

According to the U.S. Naval Undersea Museum, the sinking of fast-attack submarine USS Thresher (SSN 593) in 1963 revealed significant limitations in the Navy’s deep-sea capabilities. The Navy formed the Deep Submergence Systems Project in 1964 to develop a new rescue vehicle and expand its abilities. As a result, DSRVs 1 and 2, Mystic and Avalon, launched in 1970 and 1971, became operational in 1977, and served as the Navy’s primary submarine rescue system through 2008. Now retired, they remain two of the most technologically advanced submersibles in existence.

“There is equipment in these vehicles that was also used in the construction of space shuttles,” said retired U.S. Navy Master Chief Sonar Technician Todd Litke, former senior enlisted leader of Mystic. “There’s no formal training or school for a submersible like this. The people who gave the on-the-job training, as well as those who were trained, were some of the best people in the submarine force. The learning curve was huge, but so were the stakes that these vehicles were designed for.”

Although the Navy conducted numerous practice exercises with the DSRVs, they have never been used for a real-life rescue operation since no American submarine has sunk since the DSRV program began.

“It was the only system that we had that could rescue submarines in deep water,” said retired U.S. Navy Cmdr. Richard Taylor, former officer in charge of Avalon. “Twenty-four Sailors could be rescued at a time. We never had to, thank goodness, but we ran drills all the time and we did the first ever, foreign, submerged transfer drill with a British submarine on the sea bottom near Faslane, Scotland in 1979.”

Collectively, the three pilot’s experiences include service with both rescue vehicles that spans all four decades of the DSRV program’s 38-year history. Attendees of the event were provided insight into a program that was one of the most crucial components of deep-sea survivability for the Navy’s vast fleet of submarines.

“Being a part of this program is like working for a fire department,” said Taylor. “Our whole crew was always on standby. We had to be ready to load the vehicle onto an airplane for transport in less than four hours, and be on station, anywhere in the world, in less than twenty-four hours. The operational tempo was fast, but when seconds matter, it was up to us and our crew to always be mission ready.”

The reunion and speaker panel wrapped up with Litke presenting museum curator, Mary Ryan, a pair of hand controllers from the DSRV to be […]

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