Marine Corps awards contract to provide underwater evacuation training

The U.S. Marine Corps recently awarded a $35.8 million contract to a Chantilly, Va., firm to train pilots to escape from aircraft and amphibious vehicles that crash into the ocean.

The training centers around a dunker machine that currently simulates a helicopter crashing into water.

In winning the five-year contract, American Systems Corp. will continue work it has already performed in connection with the simulators, said Daniel Deschnow, ASC's vice president of the company's Orlando operations where the contract will be managed.

Under the previous contract, the company manufactured the dunker, which simulates both CH-46 and CH-53 helicopters, and provided training support for the simulator. The new contract has options for the Marines to modify the trainer to simulate other vehicles, Deschnow said.

The dunker can be modified to simulate the interior of several vehicles that travel over water, including an amphibious vehicle or an M-22 Osprey Tilt Rotor aircraft.

"The dunker is pretty much an off-the-shelf solution. We had more of an integrator role" Deschnow said. "What we did was identify the Marine Corps' requirement for the program. So we have taken that dunker and actually developed the training materials that we teach the Marines."

Besides providing training, ASC offers a number of other services including software development, infrastructure design and installation, and systems and network integration.

ASC installed dunkers at Camp LeJeune, N.C., Camp Pendleton, Calif., Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii and Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan.

A Nova Scotia, Canada, firm, Survival Systems, built the dunkers as ASC's partner on the project.

The need for this kind of training was identified in the late 1990s when accidents showed that Marines were not prepared to escape from a helicopter when it ditched at sea.

The incremental training leads up to a full simulation where Marines, wearing full combat gear are dunked in the water and flipped over in a random direction and orientation. Underwater divers and instructors in the dunker are there to ensure everyone gets out safely.

"When Marines travel over water they have a small breathing device called an IPHAPD, it's like a real small scuba device," Deschnow said. "They are taught how to use that too."

Deschnow said the training system could be used at other military facilities that have dunker systems.

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Washington Technology.

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