Urban munitions disposal
with the Unimog U 5023.
Since its entry into service two years ago, the U 5023 extreme off-road Unimog has helped the Hamburg explosive ordinance disposal service to make the Hanseatic City safer. Marc Neubauer, Bomb Defuser and Diving Operations Commander, was in no doubt that the Unimog is a great technical asset for the specialists. With its versatility, robustness and power, the salvage vehicle is exactly the tool the group needs to efficiently handle today’s and tomorrow’s needs.
17 November 2021: full closure of the A7 motorway in Hamburg’s Moorburg district. The reason: a 250 kg bomb from the Second World War was found in an excavation pit directly behind the crash barrier. This was a clear case for the Fire Service’s explosive ordinance disposal service. After a tense three-quarters of an hour, the unexploded explosive device was disarmed, the emergency services gave the all-clear, and traffic was able to carry on moving.
As nerve-wracking as such an operation might initially sound, it is part and parcel of day-to-day business for the crew of the explosive ordinance disposal service. The specialists sometimes come out several times a day to discuss one of the approx. 3,000 bomb duds in need of defusing in the Hamburg urban area that need either transporting away or a controlled detonation. In most cases, the explosive heritage of the First and Second World Wars is revealed in civil engineering works.
To ensure that operations take place smoothly and efficiently even in problematic locations, such as excavation pits, the explosive ordinance disposal service crew relies on the support of a real off-road expert: since 2020, the team can rely on the support of a Unimog U 5023 with its extreme off-road capability. When securing explosive devices, the emergency vehicle proves that its reputation as an “all-rounder” is no coincidence.
Unimog: the only alternative.
Several features of the extreme off-road Unimog make it the ideal solution for the challenges faced by the explosive ordinance disposal service. Since the team’s deployment site is usually not the open road, but rather construction sites and other difficult terrain, a vehicle that sets high standards with off-road abilities is required. With its differential wheel locking, portal axles, and high ground clearance, the Unimog does just that. Thanks to the optional factory-fitted tyre pressure control system, sludge, sand and gravel do not pose any problems when driving forwards.We’re no Heroes.
The compactness of the Unimog chassis offers a great advantage in the narrow streets and alleyways of the Hanseatic city. In addition, the all-rounder has a relatively low dead weight, which is a fundamental requirement for being able to cross many bridges. “If you’re looking for a truck that is extreme off-road capable, compact and relatively light, there aren’t many alternatives – and the Unimog is certainly the best,” says Marc Neubauer, Bomb Defuser and Diving Operations Commander. He and his colleagues from the clearance unit particularly appreciate the high engine power of their salvage vehicle when salvaging and transporting ton-heavy bombs.
A special vehicle for special tasks.
Once at its designated place of use, the Unimog U 5023 really comes into its own. In order to meet the challenges of the present and the future, it has been equipped with a number of special features for the explosive ordinance disposal service. A cable winch with 50 kN of tractional force helps in the unlikely event that the vehicle becomes stuck. Schlingmann’s unique box body houses most of the special tools that the explosive ordinance disposal service needs in their daily routine.
However, the Unimog is not just used as an equipment transporting vehicle. The Unimog carries an Atlas loading crane with a lifting force of 700 kg for lifting munitions. To recover the heaviest duds, vehicles from other units often had to be requested before the Unimog saw its start of operations. With this all-rounder, the team is now self-sufficient, which greatly increases its efficiency with its day-to-day business.
In order to house the specially manufactured, hermetically sealable bomb sheath in which the salvaged explosives are transported, several structural measures had to be taken on the Unimog. For example, the exhaust system was refitted and the electronics were provided with a special sheathing so that the vehicle could be granted the approval “EX-II” for the transport of explosive substances.
Reliable like no other
“From the transport of crew and equipment to the salvage and removal of explosives, we make the most of the Unimog,” reported Marc Neubauer. Over two years of service, the salvage vehicle has already proven on several occasions that nothing will get in its way so soon. "Every day it faces a new challenge. So far, it has managed to spare us from disappointment – and we are confident that this will not change over the coming years."
So far, the Unimog has spared us from disappointment – and we are confident that this will not change in the future.
Marc Neubauer, Dive Operations Manager, Explosive Ordnance Clearance Service Hamburg
As far as the abilities of their salvage vehicle is concerned, the team of the explosive ordinance disposal service agrees: "every day, we notice that Unimog is built on decades of experience accumulated with the manufacture of off-road commercial vehicles. It is not for nothing that we, the fire service, as well as many other authorities are using the Unimog. And you don’t hear anything bad about it from anywhere."
The demands on the Hamburg Fire Service are constantly growing as the urban area is becoming more densely populated and expansive. If the fast-paced city holds its breath for just a moment, it takes a well-coordinated team of specialists to remove hazards efficiently and safely. The Hamburg Explosive Ordinance Disposal service and its Unimog represent one such service.