The Defence Forces' Chief Officer Instructor of the Ordnance School, who holds a master's in ordnance mechanical engineering, writes about the DISARM (Disablement In Situ Alternative Remote Mechanisms) project, which offers a suite of applied engineering solutions designed to combat an array of strategically complex explosive engineering problems.

In the context of explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) operations, disablement is the process of breaking the electrical continuity or the explosive train of an item of explosive ordnance, improvised explosive device (IED) or of an IED containing a chemical biological or radiological payload such that it cannot function as intended.

The safety of EOD operators (EODOs) in conducting disablement operations is of the utmost primacy and the risk posed to those EODOs must be kept as low as reasonably practicable. To this end, remote disablement means are often utilised.

The Defence Forces Ordnance Corps provide the only EOD facility within the Irish state in aid to the civil power operations. The Defence Forces Ordnance School is the body tasked with training all EOD team members.

In quarter four of 2020, the school staff commenced a pilot innovation study to investigate the design, development, practical testing and optimisation of a semi-remote tool for the in situ EOD disablement and neutralisation of threaded explosive ordnance containing sensitive energetic materials.

The initial DISARM (Disablement In Situ Alternative Remote Mechanisms) platform prototype was produced and was awarded the 2020 Defence Forces Chief of Staff’s gold innovation team award.

The Ordnance School has a well-established global reputation for innovative excellence and collaborative outreach with an array of industrial and academic partners.

The school is responsible for the training and education of all Ordnance Corps technicians and leaders in close partnership with Institute of Technology, Carlow, and SOLAS. These strategic partnerships have led to a multitude of symbiotic development initiatives often yielding significant improvements at tactical and operational level while also offering research and development opportunities to other organisations and agencies.

The DISARM project evolved in 2021 to build on initial gains achieved in order to design and develop a suite (six projects) of alternative remote disablement techniques for use by EODOs to nullify the risks posed from explosive ordnance.

The Ordnance School competed for and was successful in obtaining funding for research and innovation from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform which will be utilised to expand the school’s mechanical engineering design and development capability to produce prototypes of industrial standard.

Fig 1: The end user target audience for the DISARM project, the Defence Forces Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams


The White Paper on Defence specifies the roles and tasks of both the Irish Permanent and Reserve Defence Forces detailing a number of strategic objectives which must be attained in order to contribute to peace and security both domestically and on the global scale.

The first of these objectives is to provide aid to the civil power (ATCP) specifically to assist, when requested, an Garda Síochána, as the agency with primary responsibility for law and order, including the protection of the internal security of the state. One such threat posed on both a domestic and international scale includes that of the IED. 

IEDs are those devices placed or fabricated in an improvised manner incorporating destructive, lethal, noxious, pyrotechnic, or incendiary chemicals and designed to destroy or incapacitate personnel or vehicles. They may incorporate military or homemade explosives.

EOD team leaders and operators are qualified scientists/engineers who obtain a master's of engineering qualification in ordnance mechanical engineering upon successful completion of their training. They are leaders and managers who must be technically competent and capable of analysing problems leading to the development of workable solutions.

While carrying out EOD duty they must be capable of often working under pressure in unfamiliar setting and contexts to be able to assimilate complex and ill-defined information, to develop and implement safe but flexible workable render safe plans that will bring the task to a successful conclusion thereby returning the situation to normal. This involves awareness of the needs of other agencies, the immediate environment and other outside influences. All of this must be achieved while often working under pressure and danger while having to manage conflicting demands from other agencies.

EOD doctrine necessitates the usage of remote operated vehicles to either disable or neutralise the threat posed from IEDs first in order to negate the risk posed to the human operator. In the absence of remote means, semi remote means are used with manual actions being the last resort.

Irish EOD teams use an array of remote and semi-remote techniques which are restricted for operational security reasons. Remote means refer to methods that do not require an EOD Operator (EODO) to approach a threat.

While the usage of a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) is a key enabler in EOD operations, EODOs train for all eventualities and remote means are not always available or desirable due to the tactical situation. Semi-remote actions refer to EOD techniques that require the physical delivery of the technique to the device by the operator.

The positive EOD action is then initiated from a safe distance and normally within the confines of the established secure incident control point (ICP). Semi remote means are regularly employed in mine-action/clearance and include tools such as Hook & Line, EOD disruptors or injectors and explosive donor charges.

It is also highly unlikely that humanitarian agency operators conducting clearance operations globally will have access to such expensive equipment as the Ordnance Corps. Hence the usage of semi remote means are highly utilised in these domains. The solutions generated by the DISARM project will have excellent potential here.

The aim of the DISARM project is to increase, expand and augment the range of deployable remote and semi-remote techniques available to EODOs on scene.

The project addresses this operational problem whilst optimising the preservation of forensic evidence on scene whilst expediting the restoration of the scene to normality in a much more time effective fashion thus aiding the civil power. This solution will expand the render safe capability existing within current Irish Ordnance Corps EOD tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs).

It will provide a suite of additional capabilities by which an EODO remotely or semi-remotely disables an item of explosive ordnance in situ. That is to say the EODO will have a capability to conduct disablement and in the case of a number of IED designs neutralisation of the device or homemade explosives (HME) on scene within the safety of the established cordon and evacuation.

DISARM project arrangement

This project is arranged into three mutually supporting phases:

  1. Theoretical examination and analysis
  2. Design and development of the required mechanical platforms and systems
  3. Practical experimentation, range testing and optimisation of designs

Initial theoretical examination has analysed the real life problems posed from a most probable and most dangerous point of view in relation to tackling the operational problem posed by IEDs worldwide.

The usage of existing design platforms such as SolidWorks and Ansys software is maximised with materials analysis and investigation also examined within each sub project. Above all, each solution designed is aimed at producing platforms that are both lightweight and user friendly in order to reduce EOD operator fatigue or eliminate the necessity to commit a human operator down range in the first place.

The extent of agreement between the theoretical designs and the practical solutions obtained is examined and optimised through practical testing before final proof of concept testing.

The following six sub projects are currently under development but this project team has been designed to evolve and adapt in tandem with real life operational and industrial constraints as they arise.

Evolution, end user troubleshooting, redesign and practical optimisation of an existing semi remote IED disablement tool (DISARM PLUS) for the disablement of large diameter IEDs such as pipe bombs

Fig 2: DISARM PLUS design concept

Evolution, end user troubleshooting, design and practical optimisation of a semi remote Conventional Munition Disposal disablement tool (DISARM MINUS)  

Fig 3: DISARM MINUS design concept

The design development and integration of a remote command wire cutting tool capable of adaptation to the existing EOD REACHER Remote Operated Vehicle

Fig 4: Remote Command Wire Cutting tool design concept

The design development and integration of a remote cutting tool capable of adaptation to the existing EOD Remote Deployable Platform

Fig 5: Small ROV Remote Wire Cutting tool design concept

The design, development, practical testing and optimisation of an EOD ROV liquid solution delivery mechanism for the remote desensitisation of sensitive homemade explosives

Fig 6: ROV desensitising solution delivery mechanism concept

The design, development, practical testing and optimisation of an EOD stand-alone diamond wire cutting platform enabling IED access procedures

Fig 7: EOD IED access tool concept

Integration of existing research programmes (Levels 7 and 9 Mechanical Engineering) has and will continue to be included in furthering the research and technology objectives of the DISARM project.

DISARM design considerations

  • In all sub projects, the proposed design considerations below are integrated into the design and development process as much as is practicable;
  • The solutions must be lightweight thereby reducing the load and fatigue of an EODO operating in full personal protective equipment (Med Eng Bomb Suit);
  • The solutions must be user friendly and easily deployable by one operator from the location of the ICP to the device location;
  • The solutions must require minimum attachment to the device in question thereby minimising the EODOs time in the vicinity of an intact/armed IED;
  • The solutions must be easy to clean and disinfect for preservation of forensic integrity;
  • The solutions must be easy to decontaminate in the case the IED component in question is a constituent part of a CBRN dispersal device;
  • The solutions must be small in logistical footprint so that it can be easily incorporated into existing EOD team kits;
  • The solutions should require no electrical power input bar from the EODOs direct application through normal semi-remote means such as Hook and Line;
  • The solutions should be easy to construct and made of cost effective expendable materials;
  • The solutions should be simple in design to be useable by operators globally of all CMD and EOD levels of competence.


It is envisaged that the DISARM project will build upon existing partnerships and synergies as it evolves with academic and industrial needs and requirements. The levels of EOD operator competence globally are detailed in Nato publication AEODP-10.

This capability could lead to significant innovation in the field of EOD research and development which could not only contribute to the safety and security of EOD operators and teams within the Irish state but also operators of all levels of training globally on the EOD competency framework from Explosive Ordnance Clearance Operator right up to CBRN EOD operator capability.

This is particularly relevant when the innovative scalability and simplicity of some of these potential solutions is considered in light of their potential application to the global explosive ordnance threat spectrum. The potential for scaling up this project is excellent.

The difficult lessons learned in the development of Irish Ordnance Corps Improvised Explosive Device Disposal strategies coupled with the evolution of associated tactics techniques and procedures can enable a sensible approach to the development of sustainable, successful and innovative collaboration with other partner organisation and agencies.

These lessons can also contribute towards strategic collaboration with industry both domestically and internationally in which the initial concepts right through to the development of final product are influenced heavily by the operational needs of the end users.

In this context, the Irish Defence Forces has successfully engaged with industry throughout the years as partner, client and tests bed for innovative concepts and technological development such as is the case with the development of the REACHER ROV.

Other recent examples of successful R&D collaborations the Ordnance Corps has been involved in recently are the Remote Operated Remote Operated CBRNe Scene Assessment and Forensic Evaluation (ROCSAFE) HORIZON 2020 project and the development of Anti Bio agent Decontamination Wipes in cooperation with Aquila Biosciences.

The DISARM project is presented here as a suite of applied engineering solutions designed to combat an array of strategically complex explosive engineering problems.

It will tailor-fit the innovative concepts and techniques produced to the end users whom can benefit most. Such symbiotic efforts can only lead to the development of an effective, efficient and safe counter improvised explosive device capability further enabling the ability of the Ordnance Corps of the Irish Defence Forces and its related organisations to fulfil their strategic tasks and objectives both now and into the future. 

Ordnance School Mission Statement: 'The delivery of the highest standards of technical training and education in weapons and ammunition systems, optro-electronics, CMD, IEDD, CBRN EOD and counter-IED to national and international personnel in the furtherance of the operational, logistical and innovative remit of the Army Ordnance Corps.'

Author: The DISARM project is led by the Chief Officer Instructor of the Ordnance School located in the Curragh Camp, Co Kildare. He holds the rank of Commandant and has a master's of science in the field of molecular genetics and a master's in ordnance mechanical engineering in addition to other specialist qualifications. The DISARM project team is comprised of a range of specialist personnel drawn from the 53rd Trainee Technician class, all with at least a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. The identities of the project team participants are not disclosed here for operational security reasons.