People Under the Sea: Submersibles - Hardsuit 2000
Hardsuit getting wet in the open ocean for the first time.
by Mike Thornton, LT, CEC, USN1
The latest addition to the Navys suite of Submarine Rescue
equipment is the HARDSUIT 2000. The HARDSUIT 2000 is an Atmospheric
Diving Suit, or ADS. An Atmospheric Diving Suit is an anthropomorphic2,
single-person articulated3 submersible that allows the operator, or "pilot", to remain at one
atmosphere of pressure regardless of depth. Consequently, unlike
the typical surface supplied diver, as was used in the rescue
of the Squalus, the HARDSUIT 2000 can dive as deep as 2000 feet
(or 609.6 meters) for many hours without any of the physiological
hazards of depth, such as the "bends"
or nitrogen narcosis.
Developed by Hardsuits Incorporated (Vancouver, British Columbia,
Canada) at the request of the Navy, the Navy's first HARDSUIT 2000
is currently undergoing pier-side testing with the Deep Submergence
Units (DSU) Diving System Support Detachment (DSSD) and is
expected to complete open ocean dives in time for an international
exercise in the Fall of 2000.
The primary advantage of the HARDSUIT 2000, as with all Atmospheric
Diving Suits, is the elimination of the compression and decompression
hazards associated with the typical ambient pressure diver. Likewise,
the HARDSUIT 2000 can make numerous excursions up and down the water
column, limited only by its life support duration, without decompressing
or the concerns of the bends. Additionally, since the diver is at
atmospheric pressure, upon exiting the water, the pilot does not
have to spend days decompressing, as would the typical saturation
diver. A general rule of thumb for saturation diving is a day of
decompression for every 100 feet (or 30.5 meters) plus one day,
i.e. a dive to only 1000 feet (or 304.8 meters) would require approximately
11 days of decompression.
The concept of operation is similar to that of the divers
involved in the Squalus rescue. Once a disabled submarine has been
located, the HARDSUIT 2000 could be deployed to the site within
hours and begin conducting an initial survey of the submarine while
providing the rescue team with video, sonar and personal observations.
The primary task of the HARDSUIT 2000 would be to clear debris from
the submarine hatch, remove the hatch fairing and connect the downhaul
cable from the submarine rescue chamber (successor to the McCann
Rescue Bell) to the submarines hatch.
Additionally, the HARDSUIT 2000 could be used to deliver emergency supply
pods and assist locking them into the sub. Emergency supply pods would contain
life-sustaining consumables to be used by the confined submariners. Following
these primary tasks the HARDSUIT 2000 could continue to provide support and observations
on-site to further assist the rescue efforts.
- The HARDSUIT 2000 has 16 (four in each arm and leg) patented hydraulically
compensated rotary joints which allow the pilot to physically move the arms and
legs of the suit.
- Manually operated manipulators at the end of each hand pod allow the pilot
to grasp and maneuver objects underwater.
- Two 2.25 HP thruster modules, two directed vertically
and two directed horizontally each having one thruster directed
vertically and one directed horizontally, are controlled by footpads
within the suit permitting the pilot to "fly" from point
to point or maintain station within a current.
- The suits life support system will allow it to work at depths of 2000
feet for up to six hours, with additional emergency life support for up to 48
For additional reading on the Atmospheric Diving
Harris, Gary L. (1995), IRONSUIT: The History of the Atmospheric Diving
Suit. Flagstaff, Arizona: Best Publishing Company.
1Mike Thornton is an active-duty
Navy Civil Engineer Corps Officer in the Ocean Facilities Program
with eleven years of combined enlisted and commissioned active duty
time. He is currently completing a Masters of Engineering in Ocean
Engineering while doing graduate research for Texas A&M University,
Mustang Engineering, and Offshore Magazine on the Atmospheric
Diving Suit. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2In the shape or form of the human anatomy. In the shape or form
of a human being.
3Consisting of jointed sections (as in the case of the arms).