resting. [There would be] divers on the bottom 24/7
for as long as it takes to complete the job.”
The SAT FADS is designed to fit the deck size of a
standard commercial offshore resupply vessel, 50 feet
wide by 90 feet long. The Military Sealift Command’s
Powhatan-class fleet ocean tugs also are being consid-
ered to host the SAT FADS.
Only one SAT FADS is being procured, McMurtrie
said. It is designed to be air- and ship-transportable, so
it could be dispatched to any ocean area anywhere in
the world. The system is not small: A minimum of 12
C-130 or four to five C- 17 cargo aircraft would be
required to deploy it.
“A lot of that has to do with weight,” McMurtrie
said. “It’s also capable of being transported by high-
ways on commercial tractor-trailer trucks with special
permits. We have a drawing for every truck and know
exactly what component goes on each truck.”
The SAT FADS is placed on a pier in Panama City
where the Navy Experimental Diving Unit is testing
the news system. The first manned dive in the bell was
completed on Sept. 30 and the system is undergoing
testing that will culminate in an operational evaluation
in spring 2012. A number of 1,000-foot unmanned
dives have been conducted. The Navy also is training
saturation divers on the system.
“We’re limited right now to pierside diving, to 30-
foot dives, but we’ve done approximately 80 dives [as
of March 22],” Johnson said. “We’re in the process,
maybe in a couple of weeks, of doing a 250-foot fol-
lowed by a 1,000-foot SAT dive at the pier.”
“We’re doing our 1,000-foot manned pierside dive
next year,” McMurtrie said. “[Then] we’ll install it on
a vessel, take it out to sea and we’ll do a 1,000-foot sat-
uration dive at sea.”
McMurtrie said the tasking for SAT FADS came from
the chief of naval operations in 2003. The Navy has invest-
ed approximately $20 million in the design and testing of
the system. Phoenix delivered the SAT FADS to the Navy
at a final cost of $14.2 million, according to Young.
“The main design challenge was meeting the air and
over-ground transportation requirements while providing the largest possible volumes for the six-man
deck decompression chambers and three-man diving
bell, and providing 1,000 feet of seawater depth capability,” Young said.
“Since all funding was not available at the start of the
contract, a concurrent engineering and fabrication
approach was required, which added complexity to the
design effort and caused some inevitable redesign and
fabrication rework,” he said. “Another challenge was
meeting the certification requirements of both [Naval Sea
System Command’s] System Certification Authority and
Det Norske Veritas, a commercial classification society.
The bell handling system lowers the diving bell into the
water during manned testing of the SAT FADS. Testing
will continue through an operational evaluation, a series of
manned dives pierside and culminate with a 1,000-foot
sea water dry-saturation dive.
“Phoenix has provided assistance in installation of
SAT FADS pierside at Panama City, unmanned system
integration testing, and troubleshooting and repair,”
Young said. “Currently, operation and maintenance of
the system will be the responsibility of the Navy user as
a government-owned, government-operated asset.”
Phoenix has not been contacted by navies from other
countries about SAT FADS, but has had several inquiries
from agents of diving-support vessel owners.
“The commercial customers would not need a SAT
FADS-type system because they do not have the U.S.
Navy requirements for air and over-road transportation, welded piping, and material and fabrication documentation, which adds significant costs,” he said.
Young credited several retired Navy officers with
championing the retention of a saturation diving capability in the Navy: Adm. Jerry Ellis and Capts. Chris
Murray, Jim Wilkins and Mark Helmkamp.
“Without their perseverance and vision, SAT FADS
would not have been possible,” he said. ■