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Bomb squad robot gets €1m makeover

THE Army's veteran Irish-made bomb disposal robot is getting a new lease of life.

The HOBO has been a familiar sight over the last 30 years as bomb disposal experts dealt with a host of improvised explosive bomb threats,

The little wheeled robot vehicle coped with everything from sophisticated IRA devices to crude pipe bombs used in gangland warfare in Dublin and Limerick.

Now it has been given a €1m digital telemetry upgrade, the latest in a series of continuous improvements.

The HOBO is an essential part of the Army's highly experienced Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams which last year dealt with a record 196 call-outs.

The robot is used to remotely remove or open suspect devices and can be equipped with a variety of equipment ranging from a high powered water jet to a shotgun.

The EOD teams are in more demand than ever as dissident republicans step up their violent campaign and gangsters resort to crude explosive devices to settle scores over drug territory.

During 2009, the Defence Forces took delivery of 120 three-quarter-ton 4x4 Mitsubishi Pajero patrol vehicles, with another 45 due to be delivered before the end of the year.

Two heavy recovery vehicles are also due for delivery, one this year and the second in 2011.

Also due to be delivered this year are 22 minibuses, two ambulances and four mini coaches for troop transport.

The Army's new fleet of 27 South African-made light armoured vehicles will see the remainder delivered this year in a €19.6m order.

Four Israeli-made Surveillance and Target Acquisition Suites for installation on four of the new RG-32M vehicles were also ordered in 2009.

mlavery@herald.ie