Navy

Royal Navy Bomb Disposal Experts Take Part In NATO Exercise

Royal Navy divers from the Expeditionary Diving Group trained alongside nine teams from seven nations on the Northern Challenge exercise.

Royal Navy bomb disposal experts have taken part in a 10-day NATO exercise in Iceland.

A team from the newly-formed Expeditionary Diving Group joined more than 60 experts for the alliance's Northern Challenge exercise at Keflavik, dealing with more than 300 explosives.

As part of the training, they had to face simulated drone-delivered explosives, 3D-printed limpet mines and a suicide bomber.

Faced with relentless wind and low temperatures, the team used a lightweight remotely controlled vehicle, Dragon Runner, X-ray equipment and a 38kg bomb suit to deal with the devices which were all on volcanic terrain next to Reykjavik’s international airport.

Able Seaman (Diver) Matt Latimer said it was "fascinating to see how other nations go about their business" on his first Northern Challenge exercise.

"The equipment and accents might be different, but we have a common language as bomb disposal experts," he said.

"There’s something surreal about remotely firing a weapon to disrupt an explosive device while a passenger flight comes into land what feels like a stone’s throw away."

During the exercise, the stakes were raised with devices targeting the individual disposal operators.

Royal Navy personnel used the remotely-controlled Dragon Runner vehicle during the exercise (Picture: Royal Navy).

Petty Officer (Diver) James Shell said:  "Every action of the operator has a consequence and any lapse in attention to detail risks your own life and that of the operator called upon to deal with the next bomb."

Having now returned to their base in Portsmouth, Lieutenant Commander Rory Armstrong, Expeditionary Diving Group’s Commanding Officer, said: "As bomb disposal experts we are trained first to the equivalent standard of an Army operator before acquiring the specialist maritime skills to deliver in our own environment.

"I’m tremendously proud of my team’s ability to more than match the capabilities of our multinational counterparts in what is in effect a secondary role."

The Expeditionary Diving Group was formed this year in place of the long-standing Fleet Diving Group.

It is responsible for five specialist teams which deploy around the world to protect the Royal Navy and British shipping, key ports and infrastructure, as well as a dedicated bomb disposal team to accompany the UK’s new carrier task groups.