Qinetiq has won the contract to replace the Advanced Bomb Suits (ABS) that have been used by Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) soldiers for the last 20 years, securing an order of 700 Next Generation Advanced Bomb Suits (NGABS) for $84m over the next five years.
“The EOD Soldiers have one of the most life-threatening jobs in the military and we are honoured to partner with the US Army PM SPE to provide the technology and hardware that will protect these soldiers so they can complete their missions safely and securely”, said Steve Iwicki, an executive vice president at Qinetiq.
The NGABS offers greater mobility, 360-degree ballistic protection, weight savings, and a modular sensor suite with low light and thermal capabilities, according to a release from the US Army in April 2021, that announced the participation of Fort Campbell’s 52nd EOD group in assessing the improvements via a series of operationally relevant training exercises using human factors evaluation.
“Our team has worked diligently to enhance the NGABS soldier experience through increased mobility and survivability in the construction of the suit,” continues Iwicki.
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In the design of the NGABS, Qinetiq have focussed on improving survivability by increasing the situational awareness of the EOD soldier while wearing the personal protective equipment.
To this end, the suit is equipped with sensor systems that have advanced the wearer’s low-light and night-time capabilities, including the ability to detect a man-sized object from 150m and recognise personnel at 200m, according to a data sheet from Qinetiq.
The NGABS also has a colour day camera optimised for threat detection, and a thermal camera with a resolution capable of detecting 22 gauge wire.
Qinetiq developed the suit in partnership with MedEng, a company with standing in the provision of bomb suits to US armed services, including a contract for the supply of Generation II advanced bomb suits to the US Army in 2019 for $47.2m that ended this year.
Since 2020, MedEng have also supplied the US Marine Corps with NGABS. At the time of the contract award, in 2019, US Marine Corps subject matter expert Master Sgt. Zachariah Kindvall described the suit as an improvement on previous systems:
“The new EOD bomb suit will add another level of personal protection equipment for Marines to use,” said Kindvall. “It provides a higher level of protection than what we currently have.”
Kindvall observed that the suit provides enhanced comfort, hence decreasing the likelihood of experiencing weariness. According to his statement, engineers placed significant emphasis on optimising the design and fit of the suit, with the objective of enhancing the warfighter’s manoeuvrability. The process of putting on and taking off the garment was also more convenient in comparison to the old approach.
Furthermore, the NGABS exhibits a notable reduction in weight compared to its predecessor, a feature that Kindvall argues may be advantageous for EOD personnel. The reduction in burden is a highly desirable advancement, as an excessive weight-load can limit the capacity to operate in any environment.