The NATO alliance's biggest-ever national undersea search and rescue exercise is now taking place in the Turkish Aegean, a top Turkish officer said on Wednesday.
"The KURTARAN-19 military exercise is the largest national undersea search and rescue exercise ever performed across NATO," Col. Niyazi Uğur, a rescue and submarine commander, told a briefing on Wednesday.
Armed forces from Turkey and 18 other countries, plus an observer organization, are taking part in the exercise, which started Wednesday at the Aksaz Naval Base on the coast of Aegean in southwestern Muğla region.
Uğur stated that KURTARAN-19 is a staff rescue exercise in an actual submarine under the control of the Northern Territorial Waters Command as planned by the Turkish Naval Forces Command.
"In the exercise, the aim is to transfer rescue elements from the countries where they are stationed by air and sea to the accident area in the most efficient way," said Uğur.
The exercise is meant to "develop methods for joint rescue operations in the future for the recovery of submarine personnel of NATO and non-NATO countries, as well as introducing current rescue systems and opportunities," he added.
In addition to Turkey, other participating countries are the U.S., Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Bulgaria, Algeria, France, Georgia, Italy, Canada, Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Pakistan, Portugal, Romania and Greece.
The International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office (ISMERLO) is observing the exercise.
Uğur also said the exercise is being carried out with six ships, three submarines, six coast guard boats, two planes, two helicopters, 21 search and rescue personnel, 12 rescue paratroopers, 21 submarine evacuation and rescue personnel, and three foreign divers.
According to the drill scenario, paratrooper search and rescue team were airdropped and pulled the victims out of the water, who were then transferred to the TCG Alemdar, the submarine rescue mother ship of the Turkish Navy.