• The Australian staff who worked on JFD's hyperbaric system. JFD
    The Australian staff who worked on JFD's hyperbaric system. JFD

The RAN and the government have granted the licence to operate new $19.7 million hyperbaric equipment.

The license award means that the whole crew of an Australian submarine can be treated at once.

The equipment – a transfer under pressure chamber and recompression treatment suite – was received from JFD as part of an existing contract at its manufacturing headquarters at Bibra Lake, south of Perth.

“Achieving acceptance and global certification from Lloyds Register is a very rigorous and demanding procedure” said general managerand former submariner Toff Idrus. “And what it means for submariners is extremely 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.

“When you consider that a Collins-class submarine has a crew of 48 to 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.

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 safely to the surface and on to the deck of a rescue ship.

From there, submariners are 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.It is critical for Australia’s defence capability and national security that we are able to do this,” Idrus said.

“Quite simply, the lives of the men and women of the ADF 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 and will undergo further naval testing and evaluation in August, culminating in the annual Black Carillion naval exercises in November.

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