Royal Naval Divers in Plymouth have taken delivery of a sophisticated new remote-controlled bomb disposal vehicle called Cutlass.
The Southern Diving Group (SDG) (comprising Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 and Portsmouth–based Southern Diving Unit 2 demonstrated the six-wheeled Cutlass to the new head of Royal Naval Mine Warfare and Diving Captain Phil Milburn when he recently visited SDG for a Naval Bomb Disposal capability demonstration.
The £1million Cutlass vehicle can be used to remotely neutralise improvised explosive devices (IEDs) which might, for example, have been left by terrorists.
Capt Milburn was shown how the computer controlled Cutlass with articulated arm and disruptive weapons was able to quickly deal with a simulated terrorist car bomb at an exercise area within HM Naval Base, Devonport.
Lieutenant Commander Ross Balfour, officer in charge of Southern Dive Unit 1, said:
“We have taken the opportunity to showcase the diverse skill set provided by the Royal Navy clearance diving branch and demonstrate how we go about providing continuous round the clock cover to protect the public from unexploded ordnance and suspect devices.
“This included Cutlass which has many technological advances over the previous ‘wheelbarrow’ system. It has a multiple-articulated weapons boom which replicates the movements of a human arm,allowing the operator unrivalled access to an enclosed space, like a vehicle.
“It is controlled via computer and fibre optic link with advanced optics allowing exceptional visual awareness of the area and any device. Cutlass represents a major improvement in our explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) capability whilst improving safety for the general public and our EOD operators.
The divers also demonstrated their comprehensive underwater ability using the seven-metre deep training tank with divers using closed-circuit re-breathing equipment, lifting and moving a practice bomb with a remote airbag and attaching dummy explosive charges to simulate rendering it safe.’’
Captain Milburn, who is also in charge of Minor War Vessels and the Fisheries Protection Fleet, was shown aspects of how the divers assist civil agencies, keeping the countryside and coastline safe from unexploded devices which are often discovered by walkers on the coast, uncovered by tides or lifted by unsuspecting fishing vessels from the sea bed or old ‘souvenir’ WW1 grenades found in houses.
Commanding Officer Southern Diving Group, Lieutenant Commander Olly Alexander RN said,
“SDG’s remit includes dealing with explosive devices (improvised and conventional) on behalf of the police and coastguard and encompasses the UK coastline from south of the River Dee near Liverpool to the River Humber on the east coast including the Channel and Scilly Isles.
“As you can imagine the teams work incredibly hard in the interests of public safety both above and below the high water mark.”
Southern Diving Group played a significant role last year in supporting the police and security services in ensuring the safety and success of the 2012 Olympic Games through the provision of diving and maritime bomb disposal operators in both Portland (SDU1) and London (SDU2) for the entire Olympic period.
Naval Today Staff, April 23, 2013; Image: Royal Navy