Indian Head, Maryland –
The locality around Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Division (NSWC IHD) is known for quiet, meandering country lanes, roadside produce stands and lush woodland scenery. From Aug. 2-6 however, it became the epicenter for cutting-edge explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technology as the command and the town of Indian Head, Maryland, hosted the annual Eastern National Robot Rodeo (ENRR).
This annual event was hosted by the United States Bomb Technicians Association with support from NSWC IHD, the Air Force Civil Engineer Center (AFCEC), the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Office for Bombing Prevention, and the United Kingdom’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory.
“The rodeo showcases technologies under development from various industry vendors and has a direct impact in putting the absolute best tools in the hands of our EOD and public safety bomb squad operators, and international partners,” said Dr. John Olive, deputy director of AFCEC’s EOD Division and Air Force EOD subject matter expert. “Participating multi-agency teams were given one hour to train on new equipment, then given three hours to complete a scenario that challenges that new technology. Operators provided vendors direct feedback, which shapes future development of that technology.”
The ENRR pairs current and emerging unmanned systems technology with Department of Defense (DoD) and state/local bomb disposal operators within operational scenarios. This year’s event saw more than 20 industry partners showcasing the latest in EOD hardware, along with five U.S. military EOD and three law enforcement bomb disposal teams who would put the technology through its paces in eight different operational scenarios.
“Our command has been involved with this event in the past, but this is the first year NSWC IHD is a co-stakeholder,” said Michael Del Signore, EOD Systems Division director and the command lead for this event.
According to Del Signore, while each participating agency gains valuable input and knowledge from attending this event, the command’s EOD Department’s purpose is to observe, evaluate and assess current and emerging unmanned systems technologies while in use by EOD and bomb disposal operators. The data collected will drive or identify future developments, requirements/gaps and eventual tools/capabilities to be fielded to the EOD community.
“The event was coordinated as a collaboration between the new EOD Systems and Battle Lab Divisions and will be the largest Battle Lab event executed following its establishment at the start of fiscal year 2021,” he said.
In addition to the equipment showcase, ENRR included a multi-day, multi-event technical competition to include potential real-world scenarios such as vehicle and person borne improvised explosive devices; building clearance; and chemical, biological, radiation and nuclear response. Teams participated in operational scenarios involving current and emerging unmanned systems technologies to include unmanned ground vehicles, small unmanned aircraft, legged systems, automated threat recognition, multi-shot disrupters and standoff explosive detection equipment.
At the end of the day, Marine EOD operators from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, hoisted the first place trophy beating out the federal, state and DoD EOD operators.
“While all of the EOD operators and bomb technicians who attended this event took part in some well-deserved competition and camaraderie, the experience and lessons learned from all involved primes EOD and bomb technician training and technology for the future,” said NSWC IHD Commanding Officer Capt. Eric Correll. “Events such as the ENRR combine the operator with the latest in EOD technology, creating user feedback and data collection that readies all partners for real-world and future EOD scenarios.”
NSWC IHD — a field activity of the Naval Sea Systems Command and part of the Navy’s Science and Engineering Establishment — is the leader in ordnance, energetics, and EOD solutions. The Division focuses on energetics research, development, testing, evaluation, in-service support, manufacturing and disposal; and provides warfighters solutions to detect, locate, access, identify, render safe, recover, exploit and dispose of explosive ordnance threats.