U.S. Military Insights As Underwater IED Threat Grows, Saab Rises to the Challenge

Ninety percent of global trade is carried by sea, making maritime security crucial to the world's economic well-being. The United States, surrounded by water on our east and west borders, is particularly reliant on the oceans for national and international commerce.

Maritime environments are complex, often containing complicated topography and high levels of clutter. Most ports are in close proximity to densely populated urban areas, and are reachable by air, land and sea. Combined, these factors make our seaports, ships, and waterways particularly vulnerable to terrorism – including the growing threat of underwater improvised explosive devices (UIEDs).

UIEDs are inexpensive and easy to create and obtain. They are destructive enough on their own, with the ability to destroy ships and throw port traffic – and thus, economic stability – into disarray. However, terrorists can also deploy UIEDs in conjunction with air and land raids, thus diverting and confusing responders while inflicting maximum destruction. Furthermore, UIEDs can interfere with naval military operations by impeding military sealift.

Currently, most underwater IEDs are disposed of manually by trained explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) divers. Working in such close proximity to IEDs is an extremely dangerous undertaking for these divers – and the U.S. Department of Defense and the Law Enforcement community have recognized the need to address this challenge.

In 2014, the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO) awarded Saab a contract to develop a Waterborne Improvised Explosive Device Remotely Operated Vehicle (WBIEDROV). CTTSO requested that the WBIEDROV be capable of remotely locating, identifying and neutralizing IEDs and hazards placed in a maritime domain including ports, commercial ships and waterways.

In November 2015, Saab provided three WBIEDROV prototypes to CTTSO, which are currently undergoing testing and evaluation by three U.S. agencies. Saab's WBIEDROV platform, now named Sea Wasp, is specifically designed to be operated remotely by two-person teams, allowing for a safe distance between operators and UIEDs. It can swiftly maneuver through the challenging, confined environments of a ship's hull or a jetty, where bombs are easily attached. Upon reaching the UIED, Sea Wasp can then neutralize it in situ while maintaining station in a current.

We at Saab feel confident that Sea Wasp provides an elegant and effective solution to the UIED challenge that will help protect EOD operators and the global economy.

CAPT. Jon Kaufmann, U.S. Navy, Ret.
VP of Naval Programs
Saab North America

This post is part of Saab USA's U.S. Military Insights blog series, where our employees who have served in the U.S. military offer their thoughts on the issues affecting their branch.