Russian, Norwegian Submarines Mate

A Russian rescue system coupled with a NATO submarine for the first time on Wednesday in a joint exercise off Norway.

"We had a very important event today because for the first time ever we have the Russian rescue system, the AS-34, mate with a NATO submarine," exercise spokeswoman British Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander Susan Lloyd said by telephone from Norway.

"It was very successful -- the Russian rescue system opened the hatch on the Norwegian submarine, the Uthaug, and conducted the first ever transfer between a Russian escape system and a foreign submarine."

The submarine rescue-and-escape exercise "Bold Monarch '08" is taking place in the north of the Skagerrak, a strait running from Norway along the southwest coast of Sweden and Denmark's Jutland Peninsula.

Israel and Ukraine are also taking part in the exercise, which will last through June 6.

In 2000, torpedoes detonated inside the Kursk, one of Russia's most modern submarines, which sank in the Barents Sea.

The country's bungled attempt to rescue the submariners shocked the Russian public. All aboard the Kursk died.

In 2005, the Russian Navy botched a rescue of seven submariners stranded in the Pacific, and it was the British Navy that came to the rescue with a minisubmarine.

"Today it all worked without a hitch," a Russian Navy spokesman said.

The Defense Ministry said several NATO representatives were aboard the Russian rescue system during the exercise.

Wednesday's rescue and escape training was unprecedented for Russia.