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The Latest in Bomb Trucks

Today’s law enforcement agencies face new challenges every day, with situations requiring specialized equipment for teams within the department. Agencies are acquiring much-needed vehicles to transport those teams and their equipment in an efficient, coordinated, and safe manner. Bomb squad trucks have their own particular set of requirements due to the heavy equipment and need for quick deployment.

 

La Boit, Inc. 

www.laboit.com  

Koni Wade with La Boit said they customize bomb squad vehicles to fit equipment such as robots. The primary focus for bomb squad vehicles is the ability to load and unload the robot when needed for a quick deployment. This sounds simple but is critical for movement of the robot. Sirens, lighting packages, and various other items are offered, depending on customer requirements. The truck is also a communications base and usually has a lot of seating, with storage for bomb gear.

Lt. Matt Monahan, Bomb Squad Commander, Lee County (FL) Sheriff’s Department, reports that one of the primary needs for their Laboit bomb truck was adequate storage, with the interior designed to hold as much equipment as possible to keep from having to deploy additional staff and trucks to carry the equipment. “La Boit was excellent to work with and did the truck’s layout as Lee County requested. Durability of construction is important and we needed heavy weight-bearing cabinet construction.”

Their 2007 gasoline truck is built on a GMC Kodiak 5500 frame and directly supplies fuel to their generators. Their service area is flat and with the Florida climate, they opted for rear-wheel drive only. Because heat is an issue, they installed dual air conditioners to combat the very hot working conditions, along with dual electric awnings for shade, a refrigerator for cold water, and a freezer for ice packs. Two jumps seats fold down as needed for additional seating. There are two workstations, one for the robot operator and one for x-ray interpretation. 

Three is a special cabinet for bomb suits with powered fans for adequate ventilation for drying the suits after use. Multiple storage areas include compartments and hatches outside the truck. Monitors mount on either side of the truck to allow other officers to observe the scene and keep the truck from being crowded while the operator is using the robot. An LED package includes lightbar and side lighting and the rear of the truck has detachable work lights, powered from the truck.                                                    

La Boit allowed Lt. Monahan to use an unusual configuration for the robotic ramps. Ramps were installed on either side of the truck to remove the robot from either side, a bonus when positioning their truck to remove the robot in crowded areas. This keeps them from having to disconnect their containment chamber or something else being towed to exit the robot. The dedicated space for the robot leaves plenty of room to suit up in bomb suits or do other work when the robot is removed. 

Other important features include a La Boit-manufactured, heavy-duty front bumper with a 16,500-pound winch and a rear bumper with an integrated stair-step system. Another useful feature is their map board, which folds flat to the wall with Plexiglas over it and they can use erasable markers on the map. Monahan stated that La Boit, in fact, laminates all of the truck cabinets and you can write anywhere on the interior and be able to erase it, a handy feature for the robot operator or other bomb squad members to make notes quickly.

“It’s all about storage and the capability of having as much equipment at the scene as possible. We can have everything we need at the scene. Storage is a huge issue for full-service bomb squads and we had quickly grown out of our previous small truck. Operability is important, having the storage plus the ability to work in the vehicle.”  

 

LDV, Inc.

www.ldvusa.com

Mary Lynch with LDV stated, “The entire truck layout and everything we build at LDV is customizable to meet the end user’s requirements. Interior and exterior access to equipment and bomb suits, setting up the vehicle for a Logos, wireless robot controls and LDV’s Intel-I-Touch™ are all options depending on the customer’s requirements. LDV vehicles are built standard with all-welded diamond plate roof reducing leak points and increasing roof structure for roof mounted equipment.” 

Shelving for bomb suits and equipment storage, a robot ramp, and a workstation are most commonly ordered. Bomb suit storage can be hanging or flat shelves, usually flat shelves with ventilation for suit storage, although specialty equipment such as a heavy-duty pole to hang bomb suits is available. Fans and power roof vents are used to dry the interior and exterior of the suit prior to storage. LDV will install steel day-boxes to carry the caps and powder that the departments will use to blow up bombs.  

A typical EOD unit built by LDV will include at least one workstation on the inside of the vehicle with a monitor and cable pass-through for bomb squad robots, with workstation designs for the different brands of robots and controllers. Refrigerator for cold water and/or freezers for cold packs are ordered to keep the users’ suits cooled in warm climates. Fold-out ramps or hydraulic lifts to assist in loading the robots onboard the vehicle are available, along with floor tracks to secure the robots during transit.  

Lynch added, “More expensive units will employ a perimeter camera system with four cameras on the outside, one on the inside to record the police operations and audio, as well as an exterior mast mounted day/night camera with exterior lighting system. All of these cameras are recorded on board the vehicle so they can be referred back to for legal, training, or any number of reasons. The exterior mast camera is used during the initial deployment of the robot to get a feel for the robot’s location and surroundings. Once close to the suspected target, the robot has cameras and audio that feed back to the vehicle to be recorded as well.”

Senior Bomb Tech Deputy Sheriff Chris Cornish, Lewis and Clark County (Mont.) reports that their 28-foot LDV Ford Super Duty turbo-diesel F550 has four-wheel dual-axle drive, and a walk-in box on the back. Four-wheel drive is important for their squad due to the Montana weather. The $140,000 truck was purchased with a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Their robots run through a controller in the truck, which can be plugged into a screen to allow other officers to view the scene or the x-ray screen. Cornish believes the most important features when ordering a bomb squad truck would include room for a robot, a ramp, television, a separate screen for robotics and x-ray, a generator to make the operation self-sustaining, and shelving with pull-down door to secure items inside. Their open shelving allows for bomb suits to lie flat, which he prefers to hanging the suits. Generators, an adequate cooling system, and a system for keeping the truck heated inside are needed, with awnings also very useful.  

Cornish stated, “LDV did a superb job of working with me and putting together the options we needed. They helped me put together a truck we could afford. We purchased a straightforward truck with nothing fancy, but it works for us.”

 

Lenco Industries

www.lencoarmor.com

Lenny Light, VP and General Manager, stated, “We have built several trucks and no two of them had the same configuration.” The Lenco Industries, Inc., BearCat® EOD ‘BombCat’ armored response vehicle for EOD and IEDD first responders was designed by veteran explosive ordinance disposal experts with decades of field experience and knowledge. Superior functionality is combined with the proven life-saving protection of Lenco’s armored vehicles.

All Lenco armored trucks are built with Mil-Spec steel armor plate certified to defeat multi-hit attacks from 7.62 AP/.50 Cal BMG, while ceilings and floors provide enhanced blast and fragmentation protection. Ballistic glass windows offer the multi-hit defeat, and also provide superior clarity. BombCat models are built on heavy-duty commercial truck platforms, allowing upkeep and repairs to be performed at OEM dealers and truck centers, greatly reducing maintenance costs.

The BombCat’s interior provides room for technicians, as well as accommodating a large tactical robot like the Andros F6A. The robot can be deployed with a readily accessible fold-down ramp at the curbside door or from a hydraulically controlled platform located at the front of the vehicle for effective, close-range delivery to the threat. While the ramp is usually on the passenger curbside, the ramp can be done at customer request. For instance, one customer requested a removable ramp that could be used either on the rear door or side. 

The BombCat’s spool storage reel manages the robot’s fiber-optic cable and technicians monitor progress via computer monitors from the safety of the vehicle’s interior or secure radio signals can be utilized to transmit robot audio and video feeds. The storage reel was designed for a department that didn’t want to worry about a radio jammer preventing their use of the robot.   The BombCat is also done without fiber-optic cables, robots that are run by radio frequency.

The BombCat mast can be used for a 24X zoom camera with high-intensity scene lighting raised for enhanced visibility.  

Other options include a thermal image camera, CBRNE equipment, and advanced communications sensors. They can have high-powered scene lighting, thermal and color cameras on the mast, with 360-degree pan and tilt, as well as CBRNE equipment including explosive gas equipment, radiation detection, and whatever else the customer needs. All of them can be deployed on the mast at the same time, raised 10-15 feet above the roof.  

Light said, “All the trucks are based on customer needs. Seats can fold up and down, can be removable, and the interior is configurable for seating from 2–10.”  He stated the vehicle can be set up with a workstation along the wall with a large monitor and joystick for operation or agencies have used basic flip-down desks to control the robot and watch from a monitor mounted on the wall, leaving the interior of the truck open as a squad truck.  

The BombCat can be set up for WiFi where live video can be pushed out to the command center or a DVR to record live audio and/or video where the robot is recorded and that is pushed out to a command post nearby or even a command center across town.

Light reported, “The primary things that cause the operators to buy armored are first, they are armored trucks and history shows there is no better protected vehicle based on design and materials. The modular aspect is the next and we have not built two the same. Agencies meet with engineering, talk about what they want, and we will configure a truck how they want it, seating, communications, everything. Other than the standard dimensions of the truck, everything else can be configured, including door configurations, interior, seating, CBRNE monitoring, robot control, and communications.”

 

Matthews Specialty Vehicles

www.msvehicles.com   

Michelle Shupe with Matthews Specialty Vehicles said they offer the largest selection of platforms in the industry. “Matthews’ design and engineering teams create custom vehicles for each customer that are both functionally—and—aesthetically perfectly suited to their needs.  With a bomb unit, this includes fitting the bomb robot.” Matthews Specialty Vehicles offers the GSA advantage, where special pricing is available.

Matthews offers features such as a walk-away tank system, which allows the bomb tech to load an O2 tank onto their back without assistance from another person. Matthews also creates custom storage solutions for such work items as day-boxes and bomb suits. The vehicles are built and set up for three different robot hook-ups—wireless, hardwire and fiber optics, giving customers greater options for robot utility. The bomb vehicles are built as transportation vessels for the robot, gear, and bomb tech and also feature workstations and monitors for the bomb techs for use during robot ambulation.       

North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation

Special Agent III and second-in-command

Jim Gregory reported their bomb squad had its 40th anniversary. The last two vehicles of their five-vehicle squad are diesel Ford F550 trucks from Matthews Specialty Vehicles. They operate as a state bomb squad and respond to 100 counties in North Carolina, often working with other local bomb squads to provide additional equipment and manpower. All of the NCBSI bomb squad trucks were built with federal or state grant monies and/or asset forfeiture monies (seized money from drug busts), the bulk of the money coming from the NC grant or Homeland Security grants.

Gregory stated, “The truck provides a way to get all of our equipment safely to the scene. Then the bomb technicians can operate the robotics and x-ray systems in a climate-controlled environment and use the trucks to prepare specialty tools and bomb suits. Our trucks have served as an incident command for small events.”

Gregory reported that one of the primary missions of all their trucks is to transport their robotic systems to the scenes. Their Matthews trucks have a designated area designed for a bomb technician to operate the robot remotely. Their robotic systems have their own computer systems that can be interfaced with digital recording and observation on video screens attached to that truck.   

Gregory recommended equipment such as “the robot control stations that allow the operator to drive the robot and its camera and audio to be recorded. We also have X-ray stations in our three newest trucks. X-ray is the key piece of equipment in a bomb technician’s tool box. These workstations allow us to project the X-ray image to a video screen on the truck to allow other technicians to look at the image at the same time as the operator. The ramp system on the truck that allows the robot to be deployed is key, too. The ramp system needs to be able to deploy in a timely and efficient manner.”

 

Sirchie Vehicle Division

www.sirchie.com

Aubrey Hall with Sirchie Vehicle Division stated that bomb response vehicles are primarily tasked with getting bomb squad gear, equipment, and robots to an incident scene. “The ability to respond to a suspected bomb scene with all of the gear and equipment to quickly and effectively process the scene is what makes a Bomb Response Vehicle.”

Hall stated the weight and size of the equipment housed in a Bomb Response Vehicle usually requires a heavy-duty and larger truck chassis. If the vehicle is going to tow a total containment trailer, it needs a higher Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) and Combined Gross Vehicle Rating (CGWR), the combined weight rating for both. Four-wheel drive is a popular Sirchie option.

Dedicated space for a bomb robot is a standard feature, along with its control unit, cable ports for tethered robots, operations desks with windows for visual contact or larger monitors to view what the robots see if they are equipped with video camera(s). Hall stated, “Bomb Response Vehicles are not ‘one size fits all’ type vehicles. It is the attention to the details in the design of the vehicle that makes the difference between an operator-friendly vehicle and one that is not.  The custom tailoring of the vehicle floor plan and cabinetry to accommodate the actual equipment a department is utilizing is a key part of the services and features that we provide.” 

Hall stated, “Most departments want a good heavy-duty vehicle that is designed to orderly and effectively store and transport their equipment. Bomb Robot ramps, Electro Pneumatic Bomb Robot Lifts, power accommodations in the proper locations, heavy-duty metal storage cabinets with proper ventilation, operations desks, adequate 120V AC power, effective climate control systems, etc., are the most commonly ordered items. Sirchie provides heavy-duty, welded tubular steel framed cabinetry in order to carry the weight of the bomb suits, bomb blankets, and bomb processing equipment.”   

Brownsville (Texas) Police Department Investigator Robert Tyler, Senior Hazardous Devices Technician, stated their bomb squad robot deploys from the right side and they use a 1,000-pound lift system for deploying, rather than a ramp. Their Bomb Response Vehicle provides them with plenty of storage for everything they may need on a call-out, preventing them from having to deploy additional trucks.
Their locker hanging system with ventilation fans allow for drying bomb suits. Because of the South Texas heat, they ordered dual air conditioners and consider it a necessity to have their freezer for cool-pack vests and the fridge for bottled water. They have utilized their four-wheel drive and the vehicle performed better than expected. They have emergency lights, area and flood lights around the entire truck and it is equipped with a back-up camera with sound and adjusts for nighttime operation.
Tyler suggested departments ordering a truck consider their options. “We have found that side loading for robots works best for us as this does not interfere with towing a total-containment vessel. A great asset is a 5-gallon jug for disposal operations, and anyone in the bomb disposal business will know why. Also very useful is the cab over-hang for additional stowage space, dry erase boards throughout the truck, and command center countertop for remote operations.”
“Our motto is ‘start remote...stay remote’ for as long as feasible” and this vehicle allows for just that. By immediately proceeding with a robotic approach, not only do we increase survivability rate, we also cut down on total time on scene as we avoid the initial wait time that comes with a manual approach. We like to command the entire scene from the vehicle and this vehicle platform comfortably allows for that to happen.”
 
Kathy Marks has been a child abuse investigator for more than 30 years. She teaches classes regarding domestic terrorism and is a previous contributor to LAW and ORDER. She can be reached at kathymarks53@aol.com.












Published in Tactical Response, Aug 2016

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