THE lives of submariners at sea are to be made safer thanks to a world-class facility being built by the marine arm of defence firm Qinetiq.
It is extending its UK marine headquarters in Haslar in order to install a submarine escape simulator, which will test escape equipment such as protective suits and valves under the kinds of pressures found up to 1,500m under the sea.
It will be housed alongside the Life Support Systems Laboratory in Qinetiq’s Diving and Hyperbaric Test Centre, which is due to open in November.
It means Haslar will become the UK centre for submarine safety when the new simulator begins its work next spring.
Iain Kennedy, strategy director of Qinetiq’s maritime business, said: ‘At the moment what happens is a lot of these tests are being conducted on board submarines and that takes up valuable time away from other exercises, so by having an on-land facility we can do a lot more with testing some of the equipment.
‘If you’re escaping from a submarine you need to be assured that the escape suits the submariners are wearing work under various rates of pressure.
‘We have mannequins that are “instrumented” and they have the diving suits on. Then we vary the rates of pressure to assess how well the suit performs and how a submariner would be affected.
‘This work is crucial.’
QinetiQ has a long history of improving safety for those on board submarines, as in 1999 it was the first company to have a manned simulated submarine escape, from under water.
The firm’s work also helps medical teams assess risks involved in a rescue.