Personnel from No. 65 Air Base Recovery Squadron have put their explosive ordnance disposal skills to the test during this year’s Exercise Regal Burrow.

In response to COVID-19 restrictions, Exercise Regal Burrow, encompassing all facets of air-base recovery, has been conducted in phases from May to November.

While some have been held at Townsville Field Training Area in North Queensland, the explosive ordnance disposal phase was held from August 24 - September 18 at Defence Establishment Orchard Hills in Western Sydney. 

The aim of the activity was to upskill post-qualification training and validate and authorise No. 65 Air Base Recovery Squadron explosive ordnance disposal personnel in mission-essential tasks. 

This included detecting, identifying and rendering safe explosive remnants of war and unexploded ordnance.

Air Force Armament Technician Leading Aircraftman Zachary Anderson said explosive ordnance disposal was a perishable skill that constantly needed to be maintained.

“The Regal Burrow scenario centred on the establishment of an airhead at a degraded airfield in a semi-permissive environment,” Leading Aircraftman Anderson said. 

“Our job was to conduct area clearance to make sure that the air base was safe and could become operational. We used specialised equipment like the Talon robot and the EOD-9 bomb suit to assist us.

“We came across a range of ordnance and had to make assessments and render safe anything, from mortars, projectiles and grenades to air-delivered weapons like high-explosive bombs, guided weapons and improvised explosive devices.”

The improvised explosive device scenarios are very complex, so you need to use your head and think outside the box to complete the task.

Leading Aircraftman Anderson said the realistic environment prompted personnel to think on their feet and actively de-conflict through enhanced situational awareness.

“You learn a lot about not only how you work in smaller teams, but also how you fit into the larger section to accomplish the mission,” Leading Aircraftman Anderson said.

“The scenarios have been designed by squadron members who have actually used these skills in Afghanistan on things like improvised explosive device tasks in active theatre.

“The directing staff ensure the scenarios are challenging and because the exercise is built off their experience it gives us a real insight into what we can expect.

“I really enjoy the hands-on aspect of explosive ordnance disposal. It’s challenging and requires a lot of training and thought. 

“The improvised explosive device scenarios are very complex, so you need to use your head and think outside the box to complete the task.”

Explosive ordnance disposal is a niche capability for the Air Force, as part of the Air Base Recovery profession. 

Exercises like Regal Burrow are high tempo and prepare personnel for missions such as Operation Render Safe in the Pacific or operations in the Middle East.