The rapid introduction of new technology, new regulations and the overall cost of safely operating a diving or submarine capability present new challenges to designers and operators alike. QinetiQ is at the forefront of Maritime Life Support services to maximise operational effectiveness, efficiency and safety for submarine escape and rescue systems, atmosphere control systems and diving kit.

Harnessing over £100million of specialist test facilities and equipment, we deliver bespoke solutions for an international client base - both defence and commercial – to meet the specific challenges of diving in all environments, escaping from disabled submarines and controlling the air people breathe on-board submarines. Our highly qualified and respected experts provide significant technical and operational advantage for customers by delivering unique and exceptional outcomes.

QinetiQ’s reputation and heritage in diving has evolved from the deep diving research programmes of the 1960s and 70s, including a world record 660 m dive in the High Pressure Chamber Unit (HPCU) in 1984. Continual investment in new capabilities helps us to build on this legacy and enable our Maritime clients to capitalise on advances in technology and to operate to the highest standards safely and efficiently at all times.

Hyperbaric Trials Unit (HTU)

Our hyperbaric trials unit (HTU) is used to test and evaluate escape systems and components to 150 bar. Significantly, the unit enables us to recreate the actual pressure conditions of escape from a submerged submarine independent of the performance of the components under test.

Diving Performance & Optimisation

Our diver performance optimisation, testing and advice services include acoustic protection, breathing gas optimisation, decompression and ergonomic evaluation, together with UKAS accreditation for our breathing gas and carbon dioxide absorbent analysis.

Submarine Escape, Rescue, Abandonment Services (SMERAS)

We provide a full range of tried and tested SMERAS Support Services that have been delivered to many of the world’s submarine fleets - including Fully Instrumented Tower Trials (FITT) and Guardbook advice.


With over 30 years of experience, we are established leaders in the modelling and assessment of enclosed atmospheres as well as assessment of monitoring equipment in complex enclosed atmospheres.

Test & Evaluation (T&E) is of critical importance to ensure modern high-performing and complex diving and submarine escape systems operate effectively, efficiently and safely in the world’s oceans. QinetiQ continues to set the pace in this demanding and challenging field by focussing on the critical questions, taking full account of technological advances and providing timely and essential evidence when needed.

We remain at the forefront of T&E, operating the Diving and Hyperbaric Test Centre (DHTC) which operates a unique range of specialist facilities and capabilities for the research, testing and evaluation of diving, submarine escape and other hyperbaric systems.. Our world-class test facilities include the Life Support Systems Laboratory (LSSL), Experimental Diving Tank (EDT), the hydrostatic and extreme temperature Tank (HETT) and the Hyperbaric Trials Unit (HTU).

With our wealth of experience in diving and escape system experimentation, performance analysis and the development and exploitation of empirical and semi-empirical methods, we provide efficient and fast turn-around assessment of diving and submarine escape system performance. Our resources, insight and expertise help to avoid human casualties, protect people in extreme environments and provide thorough testing of leading-edge diving equipment for military and commercial use. The DHTC can support rapid forensic investigations of diving and life support equipment following serious incidents.

Although configuration of the HTU specifically enables assessment of submarine escape systems and components, the Unit is also used to support development and innovation programmes to ensure new equipment meets the standards required in extreme underwater environments. By recreating the actual pressure conditions when escaping from a submerged submarine - completely independent of the performance of the components under test – the Unit enables escape system components to be evaluated against any defined test standards. This provides the service flexibility required for a diverse range of test programmes – from pipeline pigs for the oil and gas industry to accurate pressure cycling trials of submersible components and complex testing of deep diving equipment.

DHTC Performance Assessments deliver substantial benefits for customers:

  • Exhaustive testing of system components against defined standards
  • Independent Verification and Validation of system performance
  • Unique Submarine Escape facility
  • The foundation of UK MOD submarine Safe to Escape policy and guidance
  • Support to Safety Case development
  • Minimised through-life costs and reduced risk
  • Can pressure and function test equipment to 1500 m.

Life Support Systems Lab

The Life Support Systems Laboratory is a single compartment hyperbaric chamber with 1000m depth capability, optional water fill, temperature control, 600m rated breathing simulators, and respiratory gas monitoring.

  • Fresh water temperature 2°C to 40 °C
  • Single/Dual breathing simulators; gas humidification and heating
  • Breathing performance and endurance

Submarine Escape

Fincantieri made extensive use of the QinetiQ Hyperbaric Trials Unit (HTU) to test component performance for a new tower escape system for the Italian Navy TODARO Class submarines using realistic escape pressure profiles. This testing programme provided quantifiable support for component selection prior to installation and not only reduced the risks of the project but also ensured the final escape tower design was able to proceed to sea trials with confidence.


Diver Performance

The Experimental Diving Tank (EDT) is an open water tank that allows for temperature control and can be fitted with anechoic panels to allow acoustic measurements.

  • A 3m x 3m x 3m open top tank
  • Fresh or salt water-filled
  • Temperature controlled in fresh water 2° to 45° C
  • A 2m x 2m x 2m underwater anechoic chamber
  • Diving helmet noise evaluation

QinetiQ is a long-term partner of the UK Royal Navy for diving and life support research as well as testing and evaluation. We have unrivalled knowledge and insight in the field of diving and life support and, for more than three decades, we have delivered these specialist services for a wide range of organisations including NATO, UK Health and Safety Executive and commercial diving equipment providers such as James Fisher Defence (JFD).

We are one of the world’s leading research organisations into hyperbaric physiological effects in diving and other environments. All of our Diving & Life Support Services are supported by an extensive range of unique and truly world class facilities at the Diving and Hyperbaric Test Centre in Gosport, UK. Our independence from manufacturers, suppliers and end users always ensures our impartiality and enables us to provide rapid response forensic testing services for the investigation of serious diving incidents on a regular basis.

We are renowned internationally for our expertise in the development of equipment operation and maintenance procedures, optimisation of breathing gas composition and decompression requirements as well as pragmatic decompression procedures. Our team of technical experts have drafted and acted as the main technical point of contact for the development of NATO, MOD, British, European and ISO standards for diving related equipment and systems. Our specialist advisory services encompass the principles of hazard and accident identification and quantified risk assessment for diving breathing apparatus, diving procedures and life-support systems.

QinetiQ Diving & Life Support Services include:
  • Equipment Testing and Validation – providing uncrewed and crewed testing services to define the safe performance of diving systems.
  • Incident Investigation – rapid response forensic service for investigating diving equipment involved in serious incidents, including the provision of expert witness.
  • Diver Performance Optimisation, Testing & Advice – providing assessment of gas toxicity, decompression profiles, effects of sound and thermal protection for optimal diver performance.
  • Diving Safety and Assessment – development of standards for diving equipment and systems, building safe optimised diving procedures and technical support to equipment safety cases.
  • Diving Medical Support – medical support to diving operations including the provision of hyperbaric oxygen therapies at St Richard’s Hospital, Chichester, along with the capability to perform diving medicals.

Diver Thermal Protection

With our wealth of experience in human performance and the required ethical research, we have conducted trials of thermal protection given by diving suits and equipment both in our Experimental Diving Tank and in open water situations. The recent addition of an advanced thermal mannequin has extended our capabilities and is enabling the assessment of the thermal properties of diving, submarine escape and aircrew outfits for survival in all submerged situations.


Diver Acoustic Protection

All employers, including those in the diving industry, have a responsibility to comply with the Controlling Noise at Work Regulations (2005). Recently, the UK Health and Safety Executive harnessed QinetiQ’s extensive experience in this area. Our deep understanding of the physiological effects of sound on divers and our dedicated underwater anechoic facility for acoustic testing of diving equipment provides customers with totally impartial and fully informed advice. Noise measurements inside diving helmets and masks are provided by our HSE qualified divers or by unmanned testing using a breathing simulator.


Ergonomic Evaluation

QinetiQ has many years of experience in conducting manned trials to assess the ergonomic impact of diving and life support equipment. Our services range from the creation of trials protocols and questionnaires to the interpretation of data and generation of independent reports.

Effective and reliable Submarine Escape, Rescue, Abandonment & Survival (SMERAS) is of critical importance in submarine design and operation and many of the world’s submarine fleets have benefitted from QinetiQ’s wide range of proven support services in this specialist area. Our highly qualified team of submarine escape and rescue experts respond to both planned work and unplanned activities and we have undertaken trials and provided Guardbook advice for the UK Royal Navy, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian and Canadian Navies. We are a long-established partner for SMERAS research, test and evaluation for the UK Royal Navy and are world leaders in research into physiological effects in the SMERAS environment.

QinetiQ has developed an advanced software model that enables air-usage to be simulated when components of escape systems are added or changed or when different tower geometries are being considered. Scenarios can be simulated by the model in order to provide information on the impact of potential safety issues early in the design phase. Our SMERAS team is directly involved with extensive and fully instrumented tower trials conducted at sea, with data used to calibrate and validate the models to generate reliable predictions during interrogation.

The team delivers unique support on submarine escape trials, providing all of the equipment for measuring flow rates, temperature, hood levels of water, tower levels of water and pressure. From this data it is possible to determine if the escape tower is running too slow or too fast and to establish its optimum operating performance to maximise escape opportunities. QinetiQ also provides a rapid response team of Submarine Escape Training Tank (SETT) qualified personnel, ready to go to sea and conduct trials at any time.

QinetiQ’s SMERAS Support Services deliver benefits using a unique range of world class facilities - including our Hyperbaric Trials Unit.  We deliver impartial advice that is independent of any supplier, manufacturer or end user.

SMERAS Support Service
  • Concept Design & Development
  • Tower Escape Systems
  • Surface Abandonment
  • DISSUB Survival
  • Submersible Rescue
  • Audit and Assessment

Specialist Advice

Providing specialist advice on submarine escape, rescue, surface abandonment, survival and DISSUB atmosphere control and monitoring.


Escape Survivors

Maintaining the ability to investigate and offer advice on the treatment and management of survivors and the physiological interventions that may reduce the severity of injury following escape or rescue.


Decompression Sickness

The development of a robust mathematical model for the prediction of rates of different types of decompression sickness (DCS) and the probability of crew survival following submarine tower escape - valid for all likely pre-escape DISSUB pressure exposures.

We understand the importance of assuring people’s safety when operating in challenging enclosed environments such as submarines and submersibles, armoured fighting vehicles, aircraft and spacecraft. With experience spanning more than 30 years, we are established leaders in the modelling and assessment of enclosed atmospheres.

QinetiQ provides independent advice and guidance on atmosphere control equipment and test and evaluation of air quality, as well as field trials and a range of design and support services.

Our comprehensive range of services include:

  • Test and evaluation of air quality to identify issues and demonstrate compliance
  • Preparation and management of air quality field trials
  • Design and support of air quality equipment and systems
  • Advice on the removal of contaminants.

QinetiQ is the only commercial organisation able to offer such a broad range of services, delivering advice and guidance on enclosed atmosphere control that is independent of any supplier. Our services are supported by an extensive range of state-of-the-art equipment, facilities and software. Our Environmental Sciences Laboratory has UKAS accreditation for the analysis of compressed gases (e.g. air for breathing apparatus) and carbon dioxide absorbing materials.

We provide strategic support throughout the full lifecycle of an enclosed environment from design and acquisition through to operations and disposal. Our services are delivered by a team of highly knowledgeable scientists and engineers who have extensive experience in the application of science and technology to all aspects of atmosphere control.

Until now, the design of an enclosed ventilation system has been limited to static studies of flow rates and volumes based on the designer’s experience. QinetiQ’s proprietary software, BREATH, creates real-time simulations of the air flows through a proposed design to quickly highlight any potential flaws at the design stage. As it is an entirely virtual process, multiple redesigns are easily created and then tested, long before the system leaves the drawing board.

QinetiQ is able to provide:

  • World leading expertise in all aspects of atmosphere control, provided by highly qualified engineers and scientists
  • Extensive atmosphere control research and development capabilities
  • A deep understanding of enclosed environments and associated safety issues
  • Analysis of compressed gases (e.g. air for breathing apparatus) and carbon dioxide absorbing materials in UKAS accredited laboratories


Our BREATH software allows us to model the spread of contaminants through ventilation systems and compartments. This enables us to simulate the effect of air purification equipment on atmosphere quality within the wider system so that equipment performance, size and location can be optimised before installation - saving both time and money for the end user.


Concept Development

Conducting experimental, investigative and validation studies of novel concepts and technologies for the purification and analysis of air.

  • Application Requirements Capture
  • Technical Demonstrator Testing
  • Technology Evaluation
  • Concept Alignment

Sampling & Analysis

Carrying out sampling and analysis of gases, vapours and particulates, including the development of methodologies and techniques for monitoring target contaminants.

  • Chemical Analysis & Target Compound Quantification
  • Development and validation of Sampling & Analysis Methodology