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Submarine Parachute Assistance Group

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Submarine Parachute Assistance Group

The Submarine Parachute Assistance Group (SPAG) is the Royal Navy's elite rapid deployment sub rescue team. It was formed in 1967 to provide the RN Submarine Service with a dedicated unit that could be tasked to provide immediate emergency assistance to submarines - either parachuting directly onto a disabled submarine's location or on to surface vessels in transit.

SPAG personnel are all selected volunteers: a relatively small team of around thirty specialist ratings, NCOs and officers from the Royal Navy's Submarine Escape Training Tank facility at Fort Blockhouse and the nearby Institute of Naval Medicine, Gosport in Hampshire. They are trained in water descent parachuting using both round 22 ft Steerable and square static-line parachutes. The team's expertise can provide advice and assistance directly to the crew of the disabled submarine via underwater comms, treat escaped crew on the surface or augment medical teams on surface vessels.

A typical SPAG deployment consists of a ten man team including:

  • 1 x doctor
  • 2 x medics
  • 2 x (two man) MIB crews
  • 3 x assistants

The equipment is typically:

  • 2 x Medium Inflatable Boats (MIBs) with
  • 8 x 25 man inflatable liferafts
  • Rations
  • First Aid equipment
  • Decompression trauma kit
  • Various communications & navigation instruments

SPAG are an operational parachute rescue unit and members wear the Parachute Badge without Wings, known as the "light bulb" in accordance with RN dress regulations and ADW regulations. They are on call twenty-four hours a day at six hours notice. Utilising RAF crews and aircraft on standby they can be airborne and in transit to an emergency anywhere in the world long before surface elements become effective.

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