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Survivability is the ability to remain alive or continue to exist. The term has more specific meaning in certain contexts.



In engineering, survivability is the quantified ability of a system, subsystem, equipment, process, or procedure to continue to function during and after a natural or man-made disturbance; e.g. nuclear electromagnetic pulse from the detonation of a nuclear weapon.

For a given application, survivability must be qualified by specifying the range of conditions over which the entity will survive, the minimum acceptable level or post-disturbance functionality, and the maximum acceptable outage duration.[1]

Military survivability

In the military environment, survivability is defined as the ability to remain mission capable after a single engagement. Survivability comprises three elements:

  • Susceptibility - the likelihood of being detected, identified, and hit
  • Vulnerability - the effects of being hit by a weapon
  • Recoverability - longer term post hit effects, damage control and firefighting, capabiltiy restoration or (in extremis) escape and evacuation.

The European Survivability Workshop introduced the concept of "Mission Survivability" whilst retaining the three core areas above, either pertaining to the "survivability" of a platform through a complete mission, or the "survivability" of the mission itself (i.e. probability of mission success). Recent studies have also introduced the concept of "Force Survivability" which relates to the ability of a force rather than an individual platform to remain "mission capable".

There is no clear prioritisation of the three elements; this will depend on the characteristics and role of the platform. Some platform types, such as submarines, minimise their susceptibility and may to some extent compromise in the other areas. Main Battle Tanks minimise vulnerability through the use of heavy armours. Surface warship designs tend to aim for a balanced combination of all three areas.

Naval survivability

Survivability denotes the ability of a ship and its onboard systems to remain functional and continue designated mission in a man-made hostile environment.[2] The naval vessels are designed to operate in a man made hostile environment, and therefore the survivability is a vital feature required from them. The naval vessel’s survivability is a complicated subject affecting the whole life cycle of the vessel, and should be considered from the initial design phase of every war ship.[3]

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