Special Agent Bomb Technicians
Another installment in our continuing series about the men and women of the FBI and the equipment they use to get the job done.
They put their lives on the line to deal with suspicious packages and vehicles that might contain bombs or weapons of mass destruction. They are special agent bomb technicians—“bomb techs”—and their prime directive is simple: the preservation of life.
To achieve their mission, bomb techs use a variety of tools—from robots to X-ray machines—to identify, diagnose, and disrupt suspected or real explosive devices. Because a few seconds could mean the difference between success and disaster, every piece of equipment must be in perfect working order and ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.
- The special agent bomb technician (SABT) program is part of the FBI’s Hazardous Devices Operations Center in our Critical Incident Response Group.
- Every field office has at least one SABT. All bomb techs are certified through a rigorous six-week program and recertified every three years.
- In the field, bomb techs regularly work with the evidence response units and HAZMAT and SWAT teams of our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners.
- Suspicious packages and suspicious vehicles represent about 90 percent of the calls bomb techs respond to, which could include weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and improvised explosives devices (IEDs).
This specially made bomb tech vehicle went into service in 2008.
- Weight: 32,000 pounds.
- Load capacity: 3,000 pounds.
- Length: 32 feet, 10.5 inches.
- Height: 11 feet, 5.75 inches.
- Computer network allows real-time transfer of vital information to FBI Headquarters or other command posts.
- Bomb techs can remotely operate robots from two sets of quad monitors inside the truck. Camera tower on roof extends to 25 feet, allowing extended field of view.
- Self-contained for emergency response, with ample storage inside and out for a variety of equipment.
- Cell phone and land-line capabilities for communications in all situations.
- On-board generator allows battery-operated equipment such as the robot to be charged even when the truck’s power is off.
A bomb tech’s suit weights about 90 pounds and is equipped with a variety of safety and other devices.
- Pants are constructed of fire-resistant Nomex and Kevlar to provide leg protection.
- A ceramic “trauma plate” in front provides groin protection.
- A honeycomb plastic support covers the back and offers maximum absorption to prevent spinal cord injury in the event a blast propels a bomb tech backward.
- Kevlar jacket includes ceramic trauma plate around chest; also contains quick release toggles so SABTs can spin out of their suits very quickly if necessary.
- Bomb techs rarely wear gloves, because hand agility and dexterity is critical.
- Helmet weighs about 15 pounds and is equipped with amplifiers to increase ambient sounds. Also has defogger, lights, and ventilation fan controlled by buttons on sleeve.
- Power pack on hip powers fan, lights, and defogger.
- Suit typically contains no communication equipment because such devices are controlled by radio frequency and could trigger an explosive device. But special radios can be mounted on suit if necessary.
Because bombs are often contained within other devices, bomb techs carry a toolkit that includes standard items like screw drivers, drill bits, and flashlights.
- Weighs 800 pounds.
- Runs on two marine batteries, but can be hardwired for continuous power.
- Can gain access to almost any location on land.
- Always the first response option, to keep humans from danger.
- Can be operated remotely or by bomb tech with on-board hand controls.
- Equipped with three cameras and two-way microphone (used for speaking to people in hostage situations).
- Custom attachment allows render-safe devices to be deployed directly from the robot.
- Front “claw” does everything a hand does. Has attachments sensitive enough to open a car door or carry a saw for cutting.
- Primary diagnostic tool for suspicious packages and devices.
- Portable device takes standard X-ray images, which are displayed on a laptop computer.
- Results are enlarged and digitally manipulated for further analysis, then transmitted wirelessly to command posts or other bomb experts.
- Primary deployment tool for disrupting suspicious packages or real or potential improvised explosive devices.
- Horizontally angled weapons grade high strength stainless steel canon can fire water or specialized ammunition to disrupt or dismantle an explosive device.
Total Containment Vessel
- Used to safely transport an explosive device to a remote location for investigation or detonation.
- Round steel ball is up to 12 inches thick and can hold 10 pounds of explosives. Other models vary in capacity.
- Newest models are automated, allowing robots to place explosives safely inside the vessel.