AF EOD laser system enters testing

  • Published
  • By Kevin Elliott
  • AFCEC Public Affairs
Testing has begun on a new technology that could be a game-changer for Air Force explosive ordnance disposal.

The Air Force Civil Engineer Center, in partnership with Air Combat Command, the Prototype Integration Facility and the Redstone Test Center at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, is participating in testing the Recovery of Airbases Denied by Ordnance, or RADBO, system. The system was developed as a candidate solution to meet an Air Force Central Command requirement for a stand-off unexploded ordnance neutralization and removal capability.

The proposed RADBO solution integrates a three-kilowatt Zeus III laser and robotic arm on a fielded mine-resistant ambush protected, or MRAP, vehicle. EOD forces can use the laser and robotic arm from the safety of the MRAP to rapidly clear multiple unexploded ordnance from AFCENT airfields, which is part of the Air Force civil engineer airfield damage repair mission. The platform is a proposed improvement on the current "one man, one bomb" technique of unexploded explosive ordnance, or UXO, removal, which requires three-person teams of EOD technicians to conduct operations in close proximity to anti-access and area denial UXO hazards on runways and airfield surfaces.

"The RADBO provides EOD personnel a stand-off capability which will provide protection from unexploded ordnance," said James Russell, EOD modernization program manager for Air Combat Command.

The system also offers the potential to save precious time reopening runways in downrange environments, said Russell.

"If you look at time as a currency, what we are trying to do is bank time," Russell said. "When we compress the time it takes to safe UXO, we can then return that to our traditional civil engineers to give them more time to perform those tasks necessary to repair damage to runways and taxiways."

Developmental assessment of the RADBO system will take approximately six months. Laser ordnance testing is conducted at the beginning to establish baseline measurements. RTC will then conduct environmental tests to evaluate the system's performance in adverse conditions, including rain, wind, heat and even under electromagnetic radiation. A final round of laser ordnance testing will then check results against the original baseline.

If testing goes as planned, 14 RADBO systems will be fielded by AFCENT in late 2016 or early 2017, as part of a multi-faceted approach to UXO removal.

"We're also looking at this as part of a family of systems that make up a multiple UXO removal system, or MURS," said Marshall "Doc" Dutton, AFCEC EOD modernization program manager. "This may also include high-speed robots and unmanned aerial systems, so we'll have a combination of assessment and possibly additional mitigation."

At the end of the day, technologies like the RADBO system are just another way to serve the overall Air Force mission, Dutton said.

"The ultimate goal (of the RADBO system) is to get the airfield open and back to the flyers so we can go fly and fight," he said.