Searching and disposing of unexploded ordnance are specialised skills Air Force personnel from No. 65 Air Base Recovery Squadron (65ABRS) infrequently get the opportunity to put into practice.
During a recent deployment to Delamere Air Weapons Range, 65ABRS conducted a sub-surface unexploded ordnance (UXO) search, access and disposal activity, and certified members for task authorisation.
65ABRS armament engineer Flight Lieutenant Jacob Thomasson said he believed the deployment was essential to execute explosive hazard reduction operations on Delamere Air Weapons Range in preparation for an exercise to ensure the safety of all personnel and assets involved in the exercise.
“Sub-surface UXO search and access is one of several specialised explosive ordnance disposal capabilities which 65ABRS are trained and equipped to carry out during airbase recovery operations.” Flight Lieutenant Thomasson said.
“Locating and accessing sub-surface UXO is a capability which 65ABRS, if required, utilises during the recovery of an air base, reducing explosive hazards which can impede the projection of air power and subsequent establishment of air superiority.”
Throughout the deployment, clearance teams were able to interrogate UXO sites using electronic and manual search techniques on the inert range and high-explosives range where UXO were found at depths of 6.5m – they have been found 15m deep.
Air Force engineer plant operators were also upskilled during the deployment, excavating within close proximity of a known UXO, but no closer than 500mm, at which point hand excavation was employed.
Officer in charge Warrant Officer Peter Douglass said the capabilities demonstrated throughout the deployment provided Air Force the organic means with which to deal with conventional buried UXO on air base runways, taxiways and critical infrastructure post-attack.
“The tasks carried out during the deployment are imperative in maintaining our air weapons ranges free from hazardous UXO contamination and allowing air combat group range activities to continue unhindered,” Warrant Officer Douglass said.
“These skill sets are not only fundamental to clearing domestic air weapons ranges but help train our members in providing UXO clearance to our regional neighbours or potential clearance of airstrips in a conflict.”