US Air Force to Receive Laser-Equipped Bomb Disposal Vehicle

The US Air Force will soon have a fleet of laser-equipped bomb disposal vehicles to clear airfields of unexploded ordnance from a standoff range.

Called the Recovery of Airbase Denied By Ordnance (RADBO), the 18-ton vehicle uses a three-kilowatt Zeus III laser to detonate explosives such as bombs, grenades, and improvised munitions.

The vehicle also deploys a robotic “interrogator” arm to scour an area and move unexploded devices, minimizing the threat to life.

Readies Airfield

RADBO program manager Tony Miranda detailed situations where the vehicle could be used: “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.”

He continued, “These RADBO vehicles will be utilized by Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians to detonate the unexploded ordnance from a standoff range, so we can get back to the business of flying planes.”

The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Agile Combat Support (ACS) will deliver the first of 13 RADBOs in the fall as part of its Rapid Airfield Damage Recovery program. 

RADBO vehicle
A Recovery of Airbase Denied By Ordnance vehicle uses a robotic arm to investigate craters or areas where an unexploded device may be located. Image: US Air Force

Airfield Recovery Program

ACS’s Al Bello explained that the vehicle is just one piece of the 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 unexploded ordnance. 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.”

The ACS Support Equipment and Vehicles Division awarded a $40 million contract to Parsons Government Services Inc. to build two prototypes and 13 RADBOs in 2020. The last vehicle will be delivered in 2023.

Meanwhile, air force experts are currently cataloging the reaction of a range of explosives after being struck by a laser. 

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