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The Indian Navy plays a vital role in safeguarding the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and conducts frequent diving operations for various critical missions. These missions include submarine rescue, underwater inspections, and salvage operations.

Submarines, both conventional and nuclear, are susceptible to accidents during operations. In such situations, a well-established protocol for submarine distress response is crucial. While protocols exist for emergency ascents and communication, specialized divers and equipment are essential for successful search and rescue (SAR) missions.

The Indian Navy maintains a dedicated unit – the Command Clearance Diving Team (CCDT) – comprised of highly skilled divers. These divers are trained for various underwater tasks, including mine clearance, bomb/IED disposal, and clandestine operations.

Due to the extended durations these divers may spend underwater, a specialized platform is required for operations and equipment storage. Enter the Diving Support Vessel (DSV). This vital vessel also carries a Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle (DSRV) specifically designed for submarine rescue missions.

India has taken significant strides in submarine rescue capabilities. In 2016, a contract secured two sets of non-tethered DSRVs from a UK firm. These DSRVs are strategically positioned at Mumbai and Visakhapatnam for rapid deployment on both the west and east coasts.

The Indian Navy takes pride in its role as the “First Responder and Preferred Security Partner” in the IOR. Last year, INS Nireekshak, an Indian Navy DSV, actively participated in joint diving operations with Sri Lanka. Additionally, in 2021, upon receiving an alert from the International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office (ISMERLO), India dispatched its DSRV to assist Indonesia in their search for the missing submarine KRI Nanggala.

India’s DSRV capabilities place it among a select few nations globally equipped for submarine rescue operations. These DSRVs are equipped with advanced technology like Side Scan Sonar (SSS) and Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) to locate submarines at extreme depths. Once located, the Submarine Rescue Vehicle (SRV) can dock with the distressed submarine, facilitating rescue or emergency resupply.

A recent milestone was achieved with the successful sea trials of a DSV constructed by Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL) in May 2024. These two DSVs, christened Nistar and Nipun, were launched in September 2022. Despite delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these vessels represent a significant achievement for Indian shipbuilding.

The DSVs boast a remarkable 80% indigenous content, including the Integrated Power Management System (IPMS) and diesel generators. Over 120 MSMEs across India participated in the shipbuilding process, showcasing the country’s growing self-reliance in defense manufacturing.