IN EARLY March it was declared that the world-leading NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS) has now achieved full operating capability.
This is great news and the culmination of a 20-year project in which Northumberland- based IHC Engineering Business (IHC EB) has played a pivotal role with the design and build of the Portable Launch and Recovery System (PLARS).
NSRS is the result of three partner nations (UK, France and Norway) successfully collaborating to develop and operate a world-class submarine rescue system.
It is unique in its ability to be transported by air and mobilised on to a wide range of vessels, and is the only system that can transfer personnel under pressure from a crippled submarine to a decompression and treatment facility.
In January 2007 IHC EB delivered the PLARS for NSRS, which forms a vital part of this high specification emergency response system. The system was designed, manufactured, assembled and tested in 29 months at IHC EB facilities in the North East of England.
Since its delivery, the system has been mobilised on a number of vessels, both commercial charters and those from the partner organisations, such as the Norwegian Coastguard. The regular exercises have proven the ability to deploy by air and mobilise in less than the specified 18 hours. They have also provided vital opportunities to practise and train the mobilisation teams and system operators, whilst working up effective operating practices for the real event.
The Submarine Rescue Vehicle (SRV), manufactured by Perry Slingsby Systems Ltd, has been launched and recovered from the sea many times, with dives to mate with underwater practice targets and a number of actual submarines. Throughout this period IHC EB has been an active member of the operational team, providing both technical and on site support.
Rolls Royce, the prime contractor, is developing the database of vessels onto which NSRS can be mobilised. To date this has mainly been Ulstein Class 755 vessels, but in order to extend the vessel list significantly, the next international exercise will use a larger anchor handling vessel, the KL Sandefjord. In contrast to the solid transom of the UT755 ships, this is fitted with a stern roller, which poses a number of technical challenges for mobilising the PLARS. IHC EB is responding with the design and supply of a novel, adaptable and rapid assembly mounting scheme for this and similar vessels. The mobilisation is planned to take place in May, from IHC EB's Offshore Support Base at Riverside Quay on the Port of Tyne.
Achieving Full Operational Capability is the result of a concerted effort by the UK, French and Norwegian Navies, industry and a dedicated NSRS team.
IHC EB received the initial formal enquiry from Rolls Royce back in 2003 and is proud that its efforts, engineering expertise and innovation over the intervening years have contributed to a system that is at the forefront of worldwide submarine rescue.
Further information on the products and services available from IHC EB can be found on the website at www.engb.com