Rolls-Royce has been contracted to provide the NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS) to these participating nations. The Engineering Business (EB) is part of the Rolls-Royce team and has been tasked with supplying the Portable Launch and Recovery System (PLARS).
After two years of intensive development the PLARS has successfully completed its factory acceptance testing. To mark the occasion, representatives of the UK Defence Procurement Agency and Royal Navy visited EB’s new Wallsend facility on behalf of the three nations to witness the PLARS ongoing trials.
‘The PLARS is a key element of the NSRS, with exacting operational requirements which has demanded innovative approaches not only in the overall system, but also in the design of the many component parts,’ explained EB’s Managing Director, Tony Trapp.
PLARS is a portable system that allows the safe launch and recovery of a submarine rescue vehicle from a suitable support vessel. The system is designed for rapid shipment by road and air and subsequent mobilisation within 18 hours. Once operational it has to be able to launch and recover the rescue vehicle in extremely challenging sea conditions (in up to 5m significant waves).
‘The PLARS has a number of key requirements that from an engineering perspective are in opposition with one another – for example it needs to be light enough for air transport whilst strong enough to withstand the forces imposed when a 30t payload is recovered in extreme sea conditions’ said Dr Trapp. ‘The project has been a huge technical challenge and has required innovation on all fronts but I am confident that we have developed and supplied the world’s most advanced launch and recovery system.’
The PLARS is transported as seven separate loads; each one designed to be no bigger than the space envelope of a 40’ container (40’x8’x8’ – or 12.192m x 2.438m x 2.483m) and designed to fit into an aircraft.
‘A key aspect of the design has been saving weight,’ explained Magnus Campbell, Senior Engineer. ‘This has been achieved through use of special materials and construction as well as rigorous consideration of how the system components can be designed to perform more than one function, for example the main base structures not only deal with carrying the lifting loads in to the vessel, they also provide all of the necessary mounting and packaging for transport & subsequent mobilisation of other key elements of the equipment. At every design stage we asked ourselves ‘is there anything we can do to lighten this aspect or this component’.
Following a further programme of system testing and operator training, the PLARS will be delivered to Rolls-Royce before the end of the year.