FLIR Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: FLIR) announced that it has received more than $70 million in new orders for its advanced ground robots from the U.S. Armed Services. The U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps placed orders for nearly 600 FLIR Centaur® robots, including additional spares, antennas, and payload mounting kits. As a result, the U.S. Army awarded FLIR a $31.6 million contract increase for its Man Transportable Robot System Increment II (MTRS Inc. II) program. The new award raises the ceiling value of the original MTRS Inc. II contract from roughly $158 million to $190 million.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams use the FLIR Centaur unmanned ground system (UGV) to assist in disarming landmines, unexploded ordnance, improvised explosive devices, and similar dangerous tasks. Operators can quickly attach different sensors and payloads to the robot to address other missions, including chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats.
The US Army chooses FLIR Centaur
In 2017, the Army chose Centaur as its MTRS Inc. II solution for a multi-year program of record. Since then, other U.S. military branches have opted to deploy Centaur to their EOD units as a new or replacement ground robot system. Since early last year, FLIR has announced orders totaling more than $170 million for over 1,300 Centaurs from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps.
“The strong demand for this multi-purpose robot shows how well unmanned technology can support EOD teams across our military, enabling them to do their job more safely and effectively,” said Tom Frost, VP in the Unmanned and Integrated Solutions business at FLIR. “We take enormous pride knowing Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines rely on the Centaur UGV to perform hazardous missions around the world every day.
“Given the platform’s versatility and commonality across U.S. defense forces, we see a future where our close allies can leverage this same technology to enable combined operations,” Frost added.
FLIR Centaur is a medium sized UGV
FLIR Centaur is a medium-sized UGV that provides a standoff capability to detect, confirm, identify, and dispose of hazards. Weighing roughly 160 pounds, the IOP-compliant robot features an advanced EO/IR camera suite, a manipulator arm that reaches over six feet, and the ability to climb stairs. Modular payloads can be used for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense (CBRN) detection and other missions. Deliveries are expected to begin in the third quarter of 2021.
EOD technicians in the US military are some of the highest paid members of the military. The job is a difficult one, where EOD technicians are expected to risk life and limb on a daily basis. In fact, the EOD specialist role is one of the few careers in the military with a voluntary “opt-out” clause that enables an EOD specialist to honorably quit if they lose their nerve or feel burnt out. It’s also one of the few career paths in which members of all four branches of the US military + the CIA, come together and train at the same school/program. EOD specialists are universally admired for their work, from every rank of both the enlisted and officers. EOD specialists from the military can also be called out to help resolve civilian ordnance and bomb-related situations, such as a potential terrorist bombing or bomb making site. The bottom-line is that EOD technicians are trained to make difficult decisions in high-stress situations.
Solutions like the FLIR Centaur unmanned ground vehicles are the workhorses for daily EOD operations. By their very design, they enable EOD technicians to evaluate and resolve a given situation with minimal risk to life and limb. Rarely, if ever, do EOD technicians “cut the wire” on an explosive device as popularized in Hollywood action movies. Rather, EOD technicians use the FLIR Centaur to safely, and remotely place a “neutralizing charge” on or near a suspected bomb. The suspected ordnance is then destroyed (or neutralized) by setting off the neutralizing charge with everyone a safe distance from the explosion. This is why the role is primarily as an Explosive Ordnance “Disposal” technician – they get to blow things up.
As a military dad, I appreciate the innovation of the FLIR Centaur and the critical role that it plays in keeping our troops safe in the field. I am glad to see our tax dollars being spent to equip our troops with state of the art technology like the FLIR Centaur.