RN divers practise bomb disposal in Iceland

A Homemade bomb shatters into a million pieces in the rugged Icelandic terrain as experts from around the world deal with ‘the war on our doorsteps’

The Royal Navy’s Fleet Diving Unit 2 joined like-minded bomb disposal technicians from 13 NATO and Allied nations to discuss how to deal with the increasing threat of terrorists inflicting mass casualties with a bombing campaign.

Exercise Northern Challenge 16 run by NATO at Keflavik, just outside the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, saw the latest in home-made bombs recovered around the world over the past few years reassembled, reactivated, then finally rendered safe – either by being detonated, or by being defused for a second time.

The role of the EOD operator is probably more important than it has ever been.

Lt Cdr Sean Heaton RN

Some 22 teams from 14 countries answered the invitation from exercise director Lt Marvin Ingólfsson.

Given atrocities in Paris and Brussels over the past 12 months there was an added realism to the fortnight-long information exchange/live exercise.

Ideally, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal experts – in the case of the Royal Navy’s mine clearance divers, based either with the Fleet Diving Squadron on Horsea Island in Portsmouth Harbour or the units in Plymouth and Faslane – neutralise rather than blow up any home-made device so the mechanism can be analysed and a database of disposal techniques built up.

As Northern Challenge progressed, so the devices laid increasingly complex and realistic for EOD director Lt Cdr Sean ‘Central’ Heaton to deal with – but exactly what he wanted to see so the disposal operators were tested to the limit.

“Terrorist bombs are no longer just being placed in areas where there’s conflict,” he said.

“The lines of where conflict is has become blurred, so the role of the EOD operator is probably more important than it has ever been. The next incident could be right on one of our doorsteps.”