£55 million contract for bomb disposal robots

The Defence Secretary has announced a contract worth up to £55 million for 56 bomb disposal robots at the DSEI Exhibition.

The announcement comes after a competition between the world’s leading manufacturers, organised by the MOD, with the new fleet replacing the current Wheelbarrow Mk8b.

Following an initial £4 million demonstration phase, Michael Fallon has revealed that 56 robots will be purchased from US robotics manufacturer Harris under the MOD’s Project Starter for use by the British army, and will be supported by engineers at Harris EDO MBM Technology in Brighton, where the contract will sustain 10 highly-skilled jobs.

Fallon outlined how the Harris T7 robots used ‘advanced haptic feedback’ to allow operators to ‘feel’ their way through the process of disarming from a safe distance, protecting UK personnel from bomb threats.

The robots are able to neutralise the threats using high-definition cameras, lightning-fast datelines, an adjustable manipulation arm and tough all-terrain treads.

The haptic feedback function is designed to provide operators with human-like dexterity while they operate the robot’s arm using the remote control handgrip. The unit gives the operator physical feedback, allowing intuitive detailed control.

All robots are due to be delivered to the UK and in service by December 2020.

Michael Fallon, Defence Secretary, said: “With our rising defence budget, we are investing in the latest equipment for our armed forces to tackle the growing threats we face. These state-of-the-art bomb disposal robots will be powerful and reliable companions to our troops on the battlefield, keeping them safe so they can help keep us safe.”

Tony Douglas, chief executive officer for defence equipment and support, the MOD’s procurement organisation, said: “This contract has been designed to deliver future-proof, world-leading technology at the best value to the taxpayer. Innovation is central not only to the success of this remarkable system, but also to the relationships across DE&S, Industry and the frontline commands which allowed this agreement to be reached.”

Please register to comment on this article