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Navy Meets Urgent USCENTCOM Robotics Requirements

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050405-10
Release Date: 4/5/2005 12:44:00 PM

From Program Executive Office, Littoral and Mine Warfare Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The U.S. Navy, together with its partners in the Joint Service Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) community and industry, is currently providing technology to meet the threat posed by improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

During 2005, the Navy's EOD Program Management Office (PMS) will fulfill present requirements from the U.S. Central Command's (USCENTCOM) operating forces for small robotic systems to help coalition forces defeat IEDs and related threats in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"The rapid acquisition of small EOD robots comes in response to warfighter requirements for technologies that protect personnel and overcome the threat posed by unexploded ordnance, mines and IEDs," said EOD Program Manager Cmdr. Scott Stuart. "The EOD program office is working in close partnership with joint forces and combatant commanders, and with industry, to deliver state-of-the art capability, based on commercial off-the-shelf technologies that meet the demands of real-world operations."

The immediate requirement - to deliver 178 small EOD robots for use in Iraq and Afghanistan - comes in response to increased demand for robots to support EOD teams, as well as to replace systems destroyed in action. To satisfy urgent needs during 2004, five commercial configurations of small EOD robots were fielded to USCENTCOM by a team consisting of the U.S. Army's Robotics Systems Joint Project Office, the Space and Naval Warfare Command, the Technical Support Working Group, the Naval EOD Technology Division, PMS EOD and the Office of the Secretary of Defense Joint Robotics program.

Two robotic systems were selected for the follow-on urgent need for increased quantities and replacement of destroyed assets. The Naval EOD Technology Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head contracting office, Naval Sea Systems Command contracts office and PMS EOD worked together to quickly award contracts to two firms, Foster Miller and iRobot. Foster Miller has a $5.2 million contract to produce its Talon IIIB robots, and iRobot has an $18.4 million contract to produce its PackBots EOD.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. and coalition forces have confronted an increasingly sophisticated IED threat. Manual techniques used to neutralize IEDs expose EOD technicians to danger. To alleviate these dangers, the Joint Service EOD community has turned to technologies such as small robotic systems to help keep EOD technicians out of harm's way.

Robots equipped with a variety of sensors and tools are used to perform reconnaissance of danger areas and suspected IEDs. Robots also disrupt and disable unexploded ordnance (UXO) and IEDs. In the event of an explosion, the robotic vehicle is positioned to take the damage that a human operator would face.

To meet long-term EOD robot requirements, PMS EOD manages the Man Transportable Robotic System (MTRS) acquisition program. The MTRS is a modular system capable of remote reconnaissance in urban and rural environments on EOD missions involving UXO and IEDs. Because of its modular design, the MTRS is readily maintained in the field by EOD technicians and can be upgraded with chemical and radiological material detectors, EOD render safe tools, EOD disruption tools and EOD disposal tools. Foster Miller and iRobot are both developing MTRS for the Navy. A decision for the MTRS program to enter its production and deployment phase is scheduled for May 2005.

PMS EOD provides a variety of technologies, such as the Mk 3 Remote Ordnance Neutralization System, a larger unmanned ground robotic system that performs reconnaissance, access, render safe and disposal tasks; standoff disrupters to address UXO and IEDs from a safe distance; and small caliber disrupters to render safe small threat targets such as firing devices, landmines and booby traps. The EOD Program Office also is a member of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Joint Robotics program, which focuses and coordinates the development of robotic technologies and systems.

PMS EOD is one of seven programs under the management of the Program Executive Office, Littoral and Mine Warfare. With a diverse portfolio of more than 200 products and services, the PEO Littoral and Mine Warfare delivers materiel solutions that assure persistent, pervasive and sustained access to the littoral battle space.

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