By Steve Ranger
The army is spending £65m on a fleet of 80 bomb disposal robots.
Known as Cutlass, the six-wheeled remote-controlled robots will replace the 'Wheelbarrow' robots which have been used since the 1970s, when they were first used by bomb disposal operators in Northern Ireland.
The robots will enable specially trained soldiers, known as Ammunition Technical Officers, to defuse explosive devices from a distance.
Faster, nimbler, better powered and able to use a wider range of bomb disposal tools, Cutlass will incorporate the "latest computer technology" to ensure troops can operate more effectively, the Ministry of Defence said.
The robots can be equipped with night or day imaging systems, cameras, and weapons for detecting and disrupting explosive devices. They use "fly the head technology" which enables the operator to move the tip of the manipulator arm via a joystick giving far greater dexterity.
The availability of technology to the terrorist has altered the complexity of the explosive devices they make, warned defence procurement minister Lord Drayson.
Once in service, Cutlass will provide an essential capability for the brave men and women who conduct bomb disposal activities, he said.
Under the contract the MoD will get 80 of the robots from Remotec UK, with a phased introduction into service beginning at the end of the decade.