Final factory testing is underway on a multi-million pound deepwater rescue system for European naval forces, in part designed by Royston-based G3 Systems.
Aimed at holding up to 72 submariners at once and able to be deployed anywhere in the world within 72 hours, the £47 million NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS) is one of the world's most advanced submarine rapid rescue solutions.
Designed to be flown by military aircraft to an optimal dockside location and mounted to the deck of a suitable ship - of which 170 have been identified worldwide - the system will replace existing submarine rescue systems as they near the end of their design life.
The multinational project is managed by the UK Defence Procurement Agency on behalf of its three participants - France, Norway and the UK - and is designed to complement a planned new US rescue system, both capable of world-wide deployment.
Together with other national systems that are generally confined to domestic littoral waters, the NSRS will provide a total NATO and Allied nation submarine rescue capability.
The system comprises many elements including a rescue vehicle, a portable launch and recovery system, decompression facilities, a remotely operated vehicle for underwater support tasks, emergency life support stores and command, control and communications equipment.
G3 Systems was sub-contracted by diving technology firm Divex, of Aberdeen, Scotland, to provide 10 containers to house this complex and fragile equipment in this unique system.
Designed by G3's Jeremy Harris and Neil Stockley, the containers are strong enough to cope with the often harsh conditions at sea yet light enough to be transported by air.
An 11th container to store and transport associated equipment was also designed by the G3 team.
"The team has designed and built a tough, hi-tech, air transportable saturation system that for the first time utilises advanced electronic remote operation and monitoring systems," said Divex project leader Peter Williamson.
"The chambers and life support system are well beyond anything that currently exists in the marketplace for submarine rescue."
Divex has transported the containers to various global locations for fitting of the decompression equipment and testing.
These have now been gathered in Aberdeen to undergo the crucial sea trials.
In the situation of a submarine in distress, the NSRS Submarine Rescue Unit will be deployed by road and air to the nearest suitable port for embarkation on a mother ship from where it launches a rescue vehicle to transfer crew from the submarine to the mother ship.
On arrival at the scene the mother ship will launch a rescue vehicle - either free swimming or remotely operated from the surface - which will ‘mate' with the escape hatches of the submarine on the seabed.
The crew are then transferred in batches to the surface and if necessary into decompression facilities embarked on the mother ship. NSRS is scheduled to be fully operational by the end of June and has an expected in-service life of 25 years.
The actual design of each module has been fully modelled and subjected to in-depth FEA (Finite Element Analysis) to prove its structural strength under the most severe operating conditions before manufacture was allowed to begin.
© 2007 Business Weekly