IOP Institute of Physics

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Thornton Tomasetti Defence

For the development of seismic airgun arrays that have revolutionised the shock testing of warships.

To demonstrate that naval ship designs are robust and capable of withstanding the rigours of underwater explosions during combat, warships are regularly shock tested by detonating explosives close to the vessel. Thornton Tomasetti’s patented development of seismic airgun arrays has revolutionised the way in which these tests are conducted. By replacing explosives with an array of seismic airguns similar to those used in oil exploration, surrogate shock waves of the required intensity can be applied to the ship. This provides a more controllable method of shock testing, which is safer, repeatable, less expensive and more environmentally benign.

The airgun technique allows testing to be carried out with a low environmental impact and at a much-reduced cost. The technique reduces fish kill to zero and greatly reduces the acoustic pollution spread into the marine environment by using low-level focussed sources, meaning that testing can be performed in the controlled environment of a dockyard away from marine mammals. The airgun testing method also eliminates the safety precautions required when handling live explosives.

The testing of warship designs and the proving of naval equipment on specially designed shock-test barges using the airgun system is now routine, ensuring that our ships have enhanced survivability and resilience before they go into harm’s way.

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