The Diving and Life Support Depot
Keeping the Navy's diving rigs operational
Whether at sea, in the air or on land, the Navy's elite depend on their equipment to be mission ready at all times.
Sailors assigned to Naval Special Warfare and Explosive Ordnance Disposal units rely on two underwater breathing apparatuses while conducting missions beneath the surface - the MK-16 and Viper rigs.
"The MK-16 is a deep-diving set and electronically controlled," said Neil Patterson, a retired Navy saturation diver. "The Viper is a mechanically controlled shallow-water dive set. The MK-16 is for both SPECWAR and EOD, and the Viper is for EOD."
Although divers are trained to perform planned maintenance and corrective maintenance on the rigs, the Diving and Life Support Depot (DLSD) at Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City, Florida performs extensive depot level repairs on the equipment.
"This is the only facility for the repair and maintenance of the MK-16 or the Viper UBA," said Patterson, now employed at the DLSD. "We're responsible for fleet safety, the knowledge to maintain the rigs and dive it safely."
The MK-16 uses 100 percent oxygen to maintain the breathing mixture, which can be very dangerous if not maintained properly, thus requiring special cleaning processes to prevent contamination.
Three thousand pounds of oxygen going through a small line, with contamination in it, will start a fire," - Neil Patterson
"High pressure oxygen can be very dangerous if you do not have clean tools or you don't clean your components properly," said Patterson. "That's why it is very important to have oxygen cleanliness when you are working on any of these sets. It has to meet [MIL-STD] 1330 standards, which is the oxygen cleaning document that you have to follow."
MIL-STD 1330 standards provide the requirements for precision cleaning and testing of oxygen or oxygen-enriched systems and components; oxygen generating plants including nitrogen, hydrogen and demineralized water support systems and components; and helium, helium-oxygen and hydrogen life support systems and components.