Afghanistan Orders EOD Robots
TML’s work with the US military began in July of 2007, via a request by the US Army to design 3 new man-portable EOD robot systems with a 4-axis arms, video display OCU, multiple cameras, swappable batteries and chargers, all of which had to weigh under 35 pounds. Those MMP-15 systems were finalized and shipped by the end of October 2007, and saw use in Iraq. The follow-on MMP-30 touts itself as a “bare bones simple but rugged machine.”
That seems to be a strong selling point for a country like Afghanistan, with few technical support and repair resources. The MMP-30 also appears to be cheaper than the MTRS robots, which boast more versatility thanks a wider range of add-ons.
The MMP-30 purchases arose out of a Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technical Division requirement for a tracked mobile robot system with wireless control, multiple audio/video capability, and replacement parts. The USA already fielded MTRS EOD robots that fit these criteria: the QinetiQ TALON is heavier than the MMP-30, but iRobot’s Packbot is in the same 50 pound class. Regardless, the US Navy placed a small number of orders, and the government of Afghanistan has followed with larger orders.
Unless otherwise indicated, all contracts are issued to small business qualifier The Machine Lab in Wellington, CO, and managed by the US Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Indian Head Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division, in Indian Head, MD.
June 25/13: A $17.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for MMP-30 explosive ordnance disposal robots and accessory parts, all earmarked for foreign military sales (FMS) to Afghanistan. All funds are committed immediately.
Work will be performed in Wellington, CO, and is expected to be complete by April 2014. This contract was not competitively procured in accordance with FAR 6.302-1 (N00174-13-C-0017).
July 2012: The Machine Lab says on their web site that:
“The Machine Lab, Inc. has been working diligently fulfilling an ongoing military contract with NAVSEA (Naval Sea Systems Command) and their Naval EOD Technology Division. This contract runs through the year 2016.
Currently The Machine Lab has over 500 of our MMP-30-EOD mobile robot systems in theater in Afghanistan and surrounding areas. Our simple yet reliable mobile robots are being used to combat terrorism every day. Our robots have been in use in Afghanistan since November of 2009 by independent contractors as well as the US and Afghan Military.”
Sept 14/11: An $11.9 million firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for MMP-30 robots and spare parts repair kits, which combines purchases for the US Navy (24%), and the government of Afghanistan (76%) via the official Foreign Military Sales process.
The September 2011 contract does not specify, but based on past orders, this would appear to involve several hundred EOD robots. The usefulness in Afghanistan is obvious, but the purchase rationale for the US Navy is less obvious, since it already has similar robot designs (MTRS) with fielded support resources.
Work will be performed in Wellington, CO, and is expected to be complete by September 2016. This requirement was synopsized via Federal Business Opportunities as a sole-source procurement, and was not competitively procured by the The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head Division in Indian Head, MD (N00174-11-D-0014). If they were acting in the typical FMS role as agents for the Afghan government’s choice, that is not unusual.
July 2010: A US Navy contract adds 90 more back-packable MMP-30s.
August 2009: The Machine Lab receives a $2.4 million dollar contract to build over 100 of their larger MMP-30-EOD units, for delivery to Afghanistan by 2011.