The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) has taken delivery of new submarine rescue hyperbaric equipment valued at £11.05 million, which will enable the whole crew of an Australian submarine to be treated at once.
The equipment – a transfer under pressure chamber and recompression treatment suite – was received from JFD, part of James Fisher and Sons, as part of an existing Escape and Rescue contract.
“What it means for submariners is significant as up to 88 people can now receive life-saving medical treatment in the hyperbaric equipment suite and pressurised transfer chamber at any one time,” said Toff Idrus, general manager of JFD Australia and a former submariner.
“When you consider that a Collins-class submarine has a crew of 48–60, this new capability is very significant and represents an important milestone for submarine rescue in Australia.”
The hyperbaric equipment suite is able to withstand and operate effectively in rough, continuous seas with swells of 5 metres – conditions not uncommon around the Australian coast.
JFD says the new kit is the final step in a submarine rescue which begins with rescuing the crew from a disabled submarine and transferring them safely into a JFD free-swimming, piloted rescue vehicle, which carries them to the surface and on to the deck of a rescue ship.
The submariners are then moved through the transfer under pressure chamber and into the hyperbaric equipment suite with doctors monitoring their wellbeing and helping them overcome any life-threatening effects that come from being rescued from pressurised waters.
“Emergencies of this type rely on highly-skilled personnel and world-class equipment to bring people who have been under pressure at depth to the safety of the surface and it is critical for Australia’s defence capability and national security, that we are able to do this,” said Idrus.
“Quite simply, the lives of the men and women of the Australian Defence Force may depend on us and we must ensure they are as safe as possible, even in worst-case scenarios.”
The new equipment took two years to build involving some 100 personnel from who will now conduct further naval testing and evaluation of the new equipment in August, culminating in the annual Black Carillion naval exercises in November 2018.