Air Force to deliver vehicle that uses laser to clear bombs

  • Published
  • By Brian Brackens
  • Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Public Affairs

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Agile Combat Support Directorate is on track to deliver by fall of this year, the first of 13 vehicles that utilize directed energy, or lasers to safely detonate and clear unexploded ordnance – such as bombs, grenades, improvised munitions or other explosive devices – on airfields in deployed or austere locations.

Known as the Recovery of Airbase Denied By Ordnance (RADBO), the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle uses a three-kilowatt Zeus III laser and a robotic arm.  It weighs approximately 18 tons, and seats up to four crewmembers.

“We have an air superiority mission,” said Tony Miranda, RADBO program manager with the ACS Directorate’s Support Equipment and Vehicles Division, which is leading the effort to acquire and field the RADBO. “If we are in a high threat environment, and there are unexploded ordnance on the airfield, maintainers can’t take care of the aircraft and the aircraft can’t get off of the runway. These RADBO vehicles will be utilized by Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians to detonate the unexploded ordnance (UXO) from a standoff range, so we can get back to the business of flying planes.”

“Instead of having EOD personnel dispose of or render safer at close range, you can neutralize these UXOs from a distance using the RADBO system,” added Al Bello, the Mobility & Vehicles Branch Chief.  “RADBO is just one piece within the Rapid Airfield Damage Recovery program. When an airfield is attacked, there could be unexploded ordnance, as well as craters. Obviously, there is a need to quickly survey the airfield, identify where the unexploded ordnance is located, and then use RADBO to neutralize any UXOs. Once that is done, heavy equipment can come in and safely repair the damage to get the airfield back up and running to generate sorties for the fight.”

According to Miranda, the laser on the vehicle is quick and absolutely effective.

Currently, Air Force experts are conducting ordnance characterization, where they are evaluating and cataloging how different types of ordnance detonate after being shot with the laser.

The robotic arm or interrogator arm on RADBO is another key feature. It will be used to move bombs and investigate craters or areas where an unexploded device may be located, but not visible.

The Support Equipment and Vehicles Division has been instrumental in the development of RADBO, working closely with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Division to define requirements for the vehicle. In 2020, the Support Equipment and Vehicles Division awarded a $40 million contract to Parsons Government Services Inc. to build two prototypes and 13 RADBO systems, and is working to ensure production stays within budget, on schedule, and that performance expectations are met.

The last vehicle under the current contract is expected to be delivered by April of 2023.