Bomb disposal

Bomb disposal is the process by which hazardous explosive devices are rendered safe. "Bomb disposal" is an all encompassing term to describe the separate, but interrelated functions in the following fields:

* military – Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) or Improvised Explosive Device Disposal (IEDD)
* civilian – Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)
* public safety – Public Safety Bomb Disposal (PSBD), Bomb Squad

World War I and the interwar period

Bomb Disposal became a formalised practice in the first World War. The swift mass production of munitions led to many manufacturing defects, and a large proportion of shells fired by both sides were found to be "duds".[1] These were hazardous to attacker and defender alike. In response, the British dedicated a section of Ordnance Examiners from the Royal Army Service Corps (latterly the RAOC) to handle the growing problem.

In 1918, the Germans developed delayed-action fuzes that would later develop into more sophisticated versions during the 1930s, as Nazi Germany began its secret course of arms development. These tests led to the development of UXBs (unexploded bombs), pioneered by Herbert Ruehlemann of Rheinmetall, and first employed during the Spanish Civil War of 1936–37. Such delayed-action bombs provoked terror in the civilian population because of the uncertainty of time, and also complicated the task of disarming them. The Germans saw that unexploded bombs caused far more chaos and disruption than bombs that exploded immediately. This caused them to increase their usage of delayed-action bombs in World War II.

Initially there were no specialised tools, training, or core knowledge available, and as Ammunition Technicians learned how to safely neutralise one variant of munition, the enemy would add or change parts to make neutralisation efforts more hazardous. This trend of cat-and-mouse extends even to the present day, and the various techniques used to disarm munitions are not publicised.


Generally EOD render safe procedures (RSP) are a type of tradecraft protected from public dissemination in order to limit access and knowledge, depriving the enemy of specific technical procedures used to render safe ordnance or an improvised device.

Many techniques exist for the making safe of a bomb or munition. Selection of a technique depends on several variables. The greatest variable is the proximity of the munition or device to people or critical facilities. Explosives in remote localities are handled very differently from those in densely-populated areas.

Contrary to the image portrayed in modern day movies, the role of the Bomb Disposal Operator is to accomplish their task as remotely as possible. Actually laying hands on a bomb is only done in an extremely life-threatening situation, where the hazards to people and critical structures can't be lessened.

Ammunition Technicians have many tools for remote operations, one of which is the RCV, or remotely controlled vehicle, also known as the "Wheelbarrow". Outfitted with cameras, microphones, and sensors for chemical, biological, or nuclear agents, the Wheelbarrow can help the Technician get an excellent idea of what the munition or device is. Many of these robots even have hand-like manipulators in case a door needs to be opened, or a munition or bomb requires handling or moving.

The first ever Wheelbarrow was invented by Lieutenant-Colonel 'Peter' Miller[3] in 1972 and used by Ammunition Technicians in the battle against Provisional Irish Republican Army IED's.

Also of great use are items that allow Ammunition technicians to remotely diagnose the innards of a munition or IED. These include devices similar to the X-ray used by medical personnel, and high-performance sensors that can detect and help interpret sounds, odors, or even images from within the munition or bomb.

Once the technicians determine what the munition or device is, and what state it is in, they will formulate a procedure to disarm it. This may include things as simple as replacing safety features, or as difficult as using high-powered explosive-actuated devices to shear, jam, bind, or remove parts of the item's firing train.

Preferably, this will be accomplished remotely, but there are still circumstances when a robot won't do, and a technician must put themself at risk by personally going near the bomb. The Technician will don a specialized suit, using flame and fragmentation-resistant material similar to bulletproof vests. Some suits have advanced features such as internal cooling, amplified hearing, and communications back to the control area. This suit is designed to increase the odds of survival for the Technician should the munition or IED function while they are near it.

Rarely, the specifics of a munition or bomb will allow the Technician to first remove it from the area. In these cases, a containment vessel is used. Some are shaped like small water tanks, others like large spheres. Using remote methods, the Technician places the item in the container and retires to an uninhabited area to complete the neutralization. Because of the instability and complexity of modern bombs, this is rarely done.

After the munition or bomb has been rendered safe, the Technicians will assist in the removal of the remaining parts so the area can be returned to normal.

All of this, called a Render Safe Procedure, can take a great deal of time. Because of the construction of devices, a waiting period must be taken to ensure that whatever render-safe method was used worked as intended. While time is usually not on the EOD Operator's side, rushing usually ends in disaster.

EOD Equipment

"Pigstick" is a British Army term for the waterjet disrupter commonly deployed on the Wheelbarrow remotely operated vehicle against IRA bombs in the 1970s. The pigstick is a device that disables improvised explosive devices (IEDs). It fires an explosively-propelled jet of water to disrupt the circuitry of a bomb and thereby disable it with a low risk of detonation. The modern pigstick is a very reliable device and fires many times with minimal maintenance. It is now used worldwide. It is about 485 mm long, weighs 3 kg. It is made of metal, and can be mounted on a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). These factors make it a very effective, safe way to disarm IEDs. The "Pigstick" is also known as the PAN (Percussion Actuated Neutralizer), or just water cannon.


The name "pigstick" is an odd analogy coming from the verb meaning “to hunt the wild boar on horseback with a spear.”

It was invented for the British army in 1972; prior to that time bombs would be dismantled by hand, which was obviously very dangerous. It has to be held three inches (76 mm) from the IED to disarm it, still putting the user in danger. So explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) operators started connecting them to Wheelbarrows, and “in the period 1972-1978, and taking into account machines which had been exported, over 400 Wheelbarrows were destroyed while dealing with terrorist devices. In many of these cases, it can be assumed that the loss of a machine represented the saving of an EOD man's life.”