The agreement, dubbed the Maritime Strategic Capabilities Agreement (MSCA), was announced by Baroness Taylor, minister for defence equipment and support, in front of Qinetiq’s ocean basin at Gosport, Hampshire.
The ocean basin is said to be the largest freshwater tank in Europe.
It is used to assess the manoeuvrability of scale ship and submarine models in different sea conditions. Adjacent to it is a 270m-long ship tank that is used to test the stability and propulsion of ships and submarines or the effectiveness of power-generating tidal turbines.
Additional Qinetiq facilities secured under the MSCA include a shock test facility at Rosyth, Scotland, which can assess the amount of pressure ships and submarines can withstand by subjecting their structures with forces equivalent to a Force-10 storm, and a hyperbaric medicine unit at Gosport used to treat decompression illness and other medical conditions.
The UK government has negotiated a facility-sharing agreement with the French government as part of the MSCA that allows the UK to use the cavitation tunnel at Val de Reuil, in return for French use of the ocean basin at Gosport. Both nations signed a Statement of Intent in March 2008, working towards a long-term legal agreement by mid-2009.
‘As part of the Defence Industrial Strategy, the MoD is committed to investing in high-level technical expertise in the UK to sustain a dynamic engineering industry,’ said Baroness Taylor.
She added: ‘Hydromechanics, submarine structures and life support are three key areas for such investment.
‘[The] contract with Qinetiq will provide access to advanced modelling of submarine hull forms for the MoD’s future submarine programme and hydrodynamic facilities for the detailed testing of the innovative hull to be used by the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers.’
Clive Richardson, Qinetiq’s chief operating officer for Europe, Middle East and Australasia, said: ‘Through the MSCA, Qinetiq will continue to deliver critical facilities that help the Royal Navy save lives, time and money.
‘The MSCA also gives us a strong platform on which to attract further commercial business to the facilities. It means we can make a real contribution to driving down commercial marine research costs while developing environmentally friendly technologies in sectors such as tidal power generation.’