By David Ford, AFIMSC Public Affairs
/ Published October 18, 2021
The Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center is acquiring new base support robots for Explosive Ordnance Disposal flights Department of the Air Force-wide. The new T7 Robotic system replaces the 20-year-old Andros F6A. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Greg Hand)
The Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center recently contracted for the delivery of new explosive ordnance disposal base support robots for the Department of the Air Force enterprise. This chart shows a comparison of the 20-year-old Andros F6A and to the new T7 Robot System. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Greg Hand)
TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – The success of implementing new explosive ordnance disposal technology in fiscal year 2021 has the Air Force Civil Engineer Center looking forward to FY22.
“Our Airmen conduct high-risk operations in support of the mission, and we ensure they have the tools and resources they need to perform their jobs safely, efficiently and effectively,” said Col. John Tryon, AFCEC Detachment 1 commander. “It’s our duty to identify civil engineering needs and advance Air Force capabilities through research, development, test and evaluation, and we take that very seriously.”
AFCEC’s Readiness Directorate partnered with the Air Force Installation Contracting Center to execute more than $41 million for new EOD equipment such as a new base support robot to clear unexploded ordnance from airfields during the past year.
In July, the Air Force Installation Contracting Center awarded an $85 million, 10-year, indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract for the T7 to replace the F6A which has been used by the Air Force for two decades. The T7 robot offers a suite of new and enhanced capabilities, including a more modular design that allows users to repair by swapping subassemblies rather than individual parts – an issue that plagued the previous robot.
“This system will move robotics forward 20 years,” said Dennis Carson, EOD robot product manager. “It enhances warfighter readiness with its ability to resolve hazardous threats and missions remotely, allowing Airmen freedom of movement at any location.”
AFCEC will begin distributing the first of the T7s in May 2022 – 56 of the 170 inventory objective of T7s were funded at contract award. The remaining requirement will be purchased this fiscal year.
The T7 is the second of two new robotic systems AFCEC is upgrading for the EOD career field. A year ago, the directorate delivered the first of the Man Transportable Robot System Increment II to the 325th Civil Engineer and the 823rd Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadrons.
To date, the readiness directorate has distributed 129 MTRS IIs and provided system training to 49 EOD flights. The directorate expects to distribute the remaining 202 systems by January 2023.
The second wave of new technology deliveries took place in July when the AFCEC team debuted the Vidisco Guardian 12 Digital Radiographic X-ray system, a $27 million procurement package, at Eglin AFB, Florida, and Hill AFB, Utah.
The Guardian’s digital X-ray technology replaces three analog systems, providing a clearer image and making it easier for Airmen to detect explosives, said Dave Hodgson, EOD logistics lead for AFCEC.
“This new system is essentially everything old wrapped into a new package with the addition of digital technology enhancements,” Hodgson said. “Compared to the previous analog models, this new system gives Airmen clear and concise images, which reduces the amount of time they have to spend analyzing the images.”
To date, the AFCEC team has distributed 36 x-ray systems, with the remaining 15 base support systems to be distributed in 2022 and mobility configurations through 2026.
Just as FY21 came to a close, AFICC awarded a $24 million contract for the Large Clearance Blade Assembly, or L-CBA. Attached to armored front end loaders, the equipment is used for rapid clearance of unexploded ordnance from airfield surfaces after an attack.
Because it’s mounted to an AFEL, the paired capability will dramatically reduce clearance times, Hodgson said.
AFCEC plans to begin blade deliveries to bases in the European and Pacific theaters and some training sites in mid-October. Full fielding will run through 2026. The contract enables the Air Force to procure more than 70 large blades needed to support the Rapid Mass Mechanical Clearance program over the next several years.
The directorate also executed a Life Cycle Sustainment order for bomb suits. The suits are designed to protect EOD personnel responding to scenarios with potential explosives. The $2.2 million annual acquisition provides 76 suits to replace one-seventh of the current inventory.
“When EOD technicians have to make that long walk down range to manually perform procedures, this suit – the EOD 10E — provides the best possible protection if an explosion occurs,” Hodgson said.
Rounding out FY21 EOD funding executions, AFCEC’s EOD modernization program is seeing its work pay off as the Air Force prepares to take the next steps in bringing the Recovery of Airbases Denied By Ordnance, or RADBO, system to the Air Force EOD suite of tools.
AFCEC funded a $3.9 million effort in FY21 to convert the state-of-the-art ground-based laser prototypes to the final production configuration. The system will be delivered to Nellis AFB, Nevada, in December to support career field training as well as tactics, techniques and procedures incorporating the RADBO system, L-CBA, the prototype design completion on the Small Clearance Blade Assembly and an unmanned system application for Rapid Explosive Hazard Mitigation and Rapid Airfield Damage Repair vehicles.