One of the world's most advanced rescue submersibles has undergone a series of training exercises and simulated rescues at The Underwater Centre in Fort William. The NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS), which has been designed and built by a consortium lead by Rolls Royce, was tested at The Underwater Centre as part of a seven day training schedule.
A free swimming rescue vehicle which can be deployed world wide to reach stricken submarines, the submersible has a crew of three and can rescue 12 people at a time.
Capable of diving up to 610 metres and coping with pressures of five bars, it also boasts an innovative communication system which comprises a 7mm fibre optic cable which connects the main rescue vehicle to the surface.
The Underwater Centre, based on the shores of Loch Linnhe, allowed the submarine to be tested at depths of up to 150 metres - deeper than most parts of the North Sea. As well as providing trials facilities, it is a world class centre of excellence for commercial diving and Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) training.
Simulating real life rescues, a ‘target' acting as a representation of a sunken submersible was positioned underwater at 50 metres. The NSRS was then launched in a bid to test the ‘mating process' - ensuring that the soft seal of the rescue vehicle properly sticks to the hatch of a stricken submarine.
The NSRS was previously tested at The Underwater Centre as part of acceptance and proving trials. Last year, the facility also hosted trials for the LR7 rescue submarine, commissioned by the Chinese Navy, underlining the Centre's first class industry relevant testing conditions.
Designed and built to replace the ageing LR5 in 2006, the NSRS is a joint British, Norwegian and French project.
In the event of a submarine in distress, it will be deployed to the nearest suitable port and taken on board a mother ship. At the scene of the stricken submarine, the mother ship, using a portable A-Frame, will launch the vehicle which will then ‘mate' with the escape hatches of the submarine.
Located at the foot of Ben Nevis, The Underwater Centre's sheltered position means testing can be carried out 12 months of the year even in the most extreme weather conditions.
Steve Ham, general manager of The Underwater Centre said:
"This is the second time Rolls Royce has chosen to trial new technologies here at The Centre. We have the full package for trials and testing - as well as the unique, natural facilities of our Loch Linnhe site, we have a fully equipped pier complex which provides an excellent range of facilities.
"These latest trials are testament to our reputation for offering industry relevant conditions for trialling some of the world's most revolutionary technologies - including the NSRS.
"The rescue trials focused on the mating process, which is the most complex and difficult part of a submarine rescue and our highly experienced instructors and divers provided valuable support to the NSRS team throughout."
"We are delighted to have attracted the trials of the NSRS as it is a highly prestigious and exciting project."