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UK still trusts aged systems for EOD missions

29th June 2011 - 10:50 GMT | by The Shephard News Team


Reflecting on the UK's experiences in conflicts such as Northern Ireland, a military official has argued that the fundamental concept of EOD ROV deployment in theatre is the same now as it was then.

Speaking at the Defence IQ Military Robotics conference in London on 28 June, Lt Col Andy Stevens of the UK Defence Academy, outlined how one of the first ROVs used in the Northern Ireland conflict in 1972, the Wheelbarrow, is still as important in theatres such as Iraq and Afghanistan, as it was then.

Stevens told Shephard that in order to understand and advance the technologies currently being deployed, the UK must look at the platforms that were 'really simple', yet still adaptable today.

He referred to UK's principles when it comes to ROV usage, such as you should 'always put a robot into harm's way', and in order to demonstrate that you are a 'force for good', the UK-centric approach was to leave as little collateral damage as possible.

The 'hugely versatile beast' that is the Wheelbarrow has survived until now because of important, yet simple, features.

'The option for cables should always be there in uncertain theatres', as on the Wheelbarrow, otherwise human intervention is necessary and negates the advantage of using an unmanned system.

The Wheelbarrow can also have a range of utilities attached to it, such as a scalpel or a claw to open doors, and this is something that is being lost through the current trend of using one uniform system.

'We are going down the route of one size fits all, but I'm afraid it doesn't,' Stevens said.

He said that in order to provide the right balance of capabilities, there needed to be a complete range of system types, and he pointed out that the US is now 'ripping off trigger systems and cutting off components', because they had not got the balance right in the first place.

Maintenance of these systems was also paramount, and the Joint Robotics Repair Detachment at Victory Base Complex in Baghdad, which repaired some 1,800 ROVs from April 2009 until April 2010, is an example of the prevalence of such systems in theatre.

To increase the life-cycle of its Wheelbarrow systems, the UK has painted the ROVs white to reflect heat away from the system. The UK MoD is also eagerly awaiting the delivery of its new 'radically different' Cutlass system, which will be employed during the London Olympic Games in 2012.

The Shephard News Team


The Shephard News Team

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