SPECTATORS lined the Helensburgh seafront on Monday to watch the Royal Navy’s Submarine Parachute Assistance Group test their skills.

Despite poor light conditions, members of the public had a front-row seat for the training exercise, which saw the members of the little-known group descend to sea level from an RAF Hercules transport aircraft.

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The group of Royal Navy sailors and Royal Marines act as first-responders to submarines in distress, leaping from aircraft into the water to deliver life rafts, rations, first aid and communications equipment to vessels in distress, and can respond with as little as six hours’ notice.

Formed in the 1960s, the team are qualified submariners, medical staff and Royal Marines and are currently based at the Submarine Escape Training Tank in Gosport, though they often work in conjunction with the NATO Submarine Rescue System, operated from HM Naval Base Clyde.

Jumps had been planned for both Monday and Tuesday, but a few hours before the Monday jump, the Royal Navy announced that the Tuesday exercise had been cancelled due to “unforeseen circumstances”.

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Rear Admiral John Weale CB OBE, Head of the Royal Navy Submarine Service, said: “Submariners usually stick to the underwater environment so it’s very rare to see them take to the air like this.

“The Submarine Parachute Assistance Group provide a valuable capability and are ready at six-hours’ notice to fly to a submarine in distress anywhere in the world to aid rescue efforts.”