Russian submarine to join NATO exercise for first time
A Russian submarine will take part in the world's biggest submarine rescue exercise with its former Cold War foe NATO next week, the Western military alliance said Friday.
The Russian submarine, the first to participate in any NATO exercise, will drop to the bottom of the Mediterranean along with Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish submarines and will await listless for a rescue mission off the coast of Cartagena, Spain.
Around 2,000 military and non-military personnel as well as ships and aircraft from more than 20 nations will take part in the exercise, dubbed Bold Monarch 11, that will run from May 30 to June 10.
Held every three years, it "is the world's largest submarine rescue exercise," said a statement from NATO's SHAPE allied military headquarters based in Mons, Belgium.
"The exercise is designed to maximise international cooperation in submarine rescue operations -- something that has always been very important to NATO and all the submarine-operating nations," it said.
The inclusion of a Russian submarine in the exercise comes amid a warming of ties between Moscow and the 28-nation alliance, nearly three years after Russia's war with Georgia had sparked tensions between the two sides.
The United States, Russia, Italy, Sweden are contributing submarine rescue vehicles and sophisticated gear to clear debris. France, Norway and Britain will use a jointly owned rescue system.
Aircraft will deploy from Italy, Britain and the United States to help locate the submarines and drop parachutists to provide emergency assistance.
The vast exercise will culminate with a 48-hour coordinated rescue and evacuation of 150 survivors, including casualties, from a submarine acting in distress.
Russia suffered a traumatic submarine accident more than 10 years ago, when the Kursk sank in the Barents sea, killing all 118 sailors inside. International search operations had taken a week to start after the August 12, 2000, incident.
© 2011 AFP