BAE Systems and the Open University (OU) have teamed up to design a cutting edge atmospheric monitoring system for the UK's next generation of military submarines. The system boasts a number of advancements over its predecessor, with many of the updates coming from techniques mastered by OU scientists while developing equipment for the Rosetta comet chasing mission.

Submarine warfare has revolutionized naval strategy ever since the onset of the World War II. The greatest strength of this new form of warfare was the vessel's ability to stay submerged and therefore undetected for many hours on end. Modern submarines take this capability to greater heights, boasting the ability to produce fresh water for their crew, with some, such as the Royal Navy's Astute Class nuclear submarine, never needing to refuel over the course of a 25 year life-span.

The self-sufficient nature of the submarine means that the crew can, and do, spend prolonged amounts of time submerged in an airtight environment. Therefore a vessel's atmosphere must be monitored constantly to ensure no harmful toxins or other hazards could endanger the crew members.

"Nuclear submarines are amongst the most complex machines ever devised, patrolling a hostile environment 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in some of the most remote places known to man," states BAE Systems Submarines Engineering Manages Mark Scaife. "The Atmosphere Analyser is capable of giving real-time readings to crews so they can react quickly to any dangerous build-up of gases, an invaluable safeguard and one that can potentially save lives."

The development of the new system called on the expertise of the Open University's Space Instrumentation Group (SIG), the scientists behind the Philae lander's Ptolemy instrument. Whilst the lander remained operational, Ptolemy acted as a gas analyzer, designed to be compact, light and efficient so as to work within the constraints of the ambitious undertaking.

The next-gen piece of equipment has already undergone patrol testing, with initial results showing it to be a significant improvement over the current safety measure. The atmospheric analyzer is more autonomous than the previous system while proving to have greater accuracy – measuring a greater range of analytes at a lower cost per unit.

The system is due to be manufactured by British company Analox Military Systems, with the equipment slated to be the unit of choice for the Royal Navy's Vanguard replacement program. There are also plans in place to retrofit the currently serving Astute Class boats.

Source: BAE Systems

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