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Avalon (DSRV 2)

Named in 1977, AVALON is the second of the two Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicles of the Navy designed to perform rescue operations on submerged, disabled submarines of the U.S. Navy or foreign navies.

General Characteristics:Launched: May 1971
In service: 1972
Deactivated: July 2000
Builder: Lockheed Missiles and Space, Co., Sunnyvale, Calif.
Propulsion system: Electric motors, silver/zinc batteries
Propellers: one
Length: 49 feet (15 meters)
Beam: 8 feet (2.4 meters)
Displacement: approx. 38 tons
Speed: 4 knots/8 hours
Transit: 2.5 knots/14hours
Search: 1.5 knots/18 hours
Maximum diving depth: 5,000 feet (1524 meters)
Armament: none
Life support: 36 hours
Crew: two pilots, two rescue personnel and the capacity for 24 passengers

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About a DSRV exercise:

In recent news, the demand for undersea capabilities has been underscored by several high-visibility trials. From finding something as small as an aircraft's "black box" to something as large as the Titanic, attempting to find the proverbial "needle in the haystack" has become a national fixation.

The level of urgency for this capability recently took a step forward when the U.S. Navy demonstrated how advances in technology - combined with a highly trained and competent team - can save lives through deep-sea rescue.

This operation was a joint exercise performed by the U.S. Pacific Submarine Force and the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force. In this effort, the navies joined forces to test the compatibility of employing a mini submarine to rescue Sailors from another countryís vessel.

Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle 2 AVALON was loaded onto the Air Force C-5A Galaxy for transfer from San Diego, Calif., to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. The AVALON was loaded onto a specialized brace that's hitched to a semi truck. The truck was then slowly pulled into the opened C-5, with room to spare. Once in Hawaii, the mini-sub was trucked pier-side, where it was craned onto the USS GREENEVILLE's (SSN 772) hull.

The AVALON, a miniature submarine developed for the sole purpose of retrieving people from underwater shipwrecks, was attached to the topside of USS GREENEVILLE, a fast-attack submarine based out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on November 1st.

The tandem then got underway the next day to test the Navy's ability to deploy AVALON from the GREENEVILLE, the Mother Submarine (MOSUB), to a Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force simulated disabled submarine (DISUB), the JDS HAYASHIO (SS 585). For the purposes of the exercise, the HAYASHIO actually rested on the ocean floor to provide realism for the demonstration.

Once AVALON mated to the DISUB, crewmembers from the affected submarine climb aboard the DSRV and ride to safety.

A crew of four mans the AVALON and has room for up to 24 rescued persons. Because of space limitations inside the DSRV, when itís filled to maximum capacity the people are instructed to sit cross-legged with their arms over each otherís shoulders. The DSRV measures 50 feet in length and displaces around 80,000 lbs. when submerged, has an exterior composed of 13 layers of fiberglass and is battery-powered. The boat can submerge to depths of 5,000 feet. AVALON equips a mechanical arm designated to open hatches and remove blockage on disabled submarines. The arm also has a gripper and a cable cutter with the ability to lift 1,000lbs., or the equivalent of a Harley Davidson.

There are currently two DSRVs in the Navyís underwater arsenal and according to Sonar Technician Senior Chief James Crandall, DSU training officer from Philadelphia, the AVALON will be deactivating in July of 2000.

"We wonít have that sense of backup that we had when there were two DSRVs," he said.

Hall says that because of fiscal and budgetary issues, the Navy is being asked to look at more cost-effective ways of submarine rescue. Hall believes that if they go down to one, theyíll still be able to meet the worldwide rescue commitments.

The AVALON will be kept on sight at the DSU compound because the future of the submarine after inactivation is still uncertain. According to Hall, a potential successor is a surface launched, remotely operated vehicle, modeled after an Australian rescue vehicle.

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