Defence firm takes the plunge at new Gosport test site

FACILITY The diving tank at Qinetiq's new test facility at Haslar Marine Technology Park.  Picture: Paul Jacobs (120286-7)
FACILITY The diving tank at Qinetiq's new test facility at Haslar Marine Technology Park. Picture: Paul Jacobs (120286-7)
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DEFENCE firm QinetiQ has opened a new purpose-built facility in Gosport to test equipment and develop submarine escape hatch technology.

The defence firm has moved its diving tank, testing chambers and a unique 38-tonne submarine escape pod simulator to its site in Haslar.

It comes after the technology firm decided to close its research centre in Alverstoke and put the site up for sale.

QinetiQ’s new diving and hyperbaric test centre was formally opened by Commodore Henry Parker of the Royal Navy yesterday.

It boasts a life support systems laboratory to test breathing gear in simulated pressures of 1,800ft below and an experimental 10ft deep tank which is used to research diving techniques and kit in temperatures from 2C to 45C. It also has an extreme temperature salt water tank which can test gear at -2C, and a large submarine escape pod simulator which pumps in gas to recreate the water pressure of boats at depths of 4,500ft.

Gavin Anthony, who is QinetiQ’s principal consultant for diving, said: ‘It’s the first time we’ve had all our diving and hyperbaric equipment on one site and it means our scientists can work closely together as a centre for excellence within the maritime arena.’

QinetiQ is under contract with the Ministry of Defence to test all of the Royal Navy’s diving equipment when it comes into service and carry out forensic examinations on kit if something goes wrong.

With its new centre up and running, the company hopes to supplement its MoD income by testing and developing commercial kit.

Engineer Paul Oakley said: ‘I’ve been involved in getting the project up and running and it will be good to get some businesses in and start using it.

‘Commercial customers are queuing up to use this facility. We’re able to test pretty much everything here and it will be a real hive of activity now.’

Cdre Parker, who is to be made an admiral next month, was taken on a tour of the site yesterday. He said: ‘It’s really important to have what I call wet science all in one place.

‘This centre is all about saving people’s lives and keeping people safe in extreme environments. It’s not only a moral duty, but a legal requirement to make sure we are limiting risks.’