Irish army bomb experts win EU project to develop system to deal with chemical or nuclear explosion

The Irish Defence Forces' bomb disposal units were deployed 141 times in 2015.

Army bomb experts are to develop a hi-tech system to deal with a chemical, biological or nuclear explosion.

The Irish Defence Forces is part of a consortium including NUI Galway and Saab which this week won a coveted €4m European Commission project.

They intend to build a ground robot or a drone-type aircraft to remotely respond to such an explosion, including in a highly populated area, such as a stadium or on the battlefield.

The Irish submission topped 40 other bidders. The news emerged during a lengthy media tour yesterday of the Ordnance School at Defence Forces HQ at the Curragh, Co Kildare.

Ray, a top-level officer in the school, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the aim was to develop a “remote operational system” to deal with a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear attack in various scenarios, such as in a “stadium or built-up area”.

He said the system could be a “ground robot” or “an unmanned aerial vehicle”, such as a drone.

Different types of improvised explosive devices that the Irish Defence Forces have encountered.
Different types of improvised explosive devices that the Irish Defence Forces have encountered.

In a situation where a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear bomb had “functioned”, or gone off, the robot or drone would go in and take a sample and bring it back for analysis.

Ray said the technology could also be deployed to prevent an explosion. It could also be used in international settings, such as conventional battlefields.

Regards responding to incidents such as the November 13 terror attacks on Paris, Ray said: “Threats change all the time. We adapt and respond and we try to be ahead of what’s coming down the line.”

The Ordnance School is a logistical and operational unit, the latter better known for its Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams or bomb squads, which were deployed 141 times in 2015.

A two-year course is given to recruits, who typically join with a degree in science, engineering, or electronics.

The school boasts a range of equipment, from EOD blast suits (weighing 31.5kg), special chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear suits and detectors, to ‘Hobo’ bomb disposal robots.

Senior school instructor Paul, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said the recruits were trained in engineering and tactics, including ‘counter improvised explosive devices’, which involves understanding the threat, responding to it and countering the next threat.

This involved targeting the full network, from the triggerman to the planner to the builder to the supplier.

Paul said the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center opened a “Pandora’s Box” and demanded a new response.

He said the improvised mortar devices designed by the dissident republicans demonstrated a “significant capability” and was to be “taken seriously”.


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