Royal Navy boosts recompression chamber deployment capacity

The Royal Navy is now capable of having its recompression chambers reach stricken submariners and divers faster as a recent trial showed that the navy’s six Type 45 destroyers can fit the chambers to their flight decks.

Until now only the Navy’s thirteen Type 23 frigates were able to deploy the emergency stores which are held at six hours’ notice to move in HMNB Devonport in Plymouth.

A recompression chamber shrinks the size of the damaging gas bubbles that have formed in the tissues of divers – or submariners who have undertaken an emergency departure from their boat – who rise to surface too quickly.

The Royal Navy has two recompression chambers on standby to support the submarine community, each of which is housed in an ISO container, weighs 13.6 tonnes and can accommodate 11 people at a time.

The trial was conducted on HMS Dauntless by the Submarine Escape Rescue and Survival Team (SMERAS) team from Gosport.

“In the unlikely event of a submarine being in distress, our preferred method of rescue is clearly on the surface, or via the NATO Submarine Rescue System from HMNB Clyde in Scotland,” said SMERAS Warrant Officer Steve Micallef.

“If submariners have to leave their boats underwater, they could possibly suffer from the bends, or decompression sickness.

“So being able to have a broader range of surface ships to carry our two recompression chambers quickly to the scene provides us with more options, should our services ever be required.

“I would like to extend my gratitude to the captain and crew of HMS Dauntless for their co-operation and support, and also the Southern Diving Group who maintain the recompression chambers, compressors and generators as part of their everyday duties.”

The trial took nine months to plan and included having the deck plans approved by the MOD’s Naval Architects, the Royal Navy said.