Wearing $61,400 armour is all in a day's work for bomb disposal unit

ASP Kamaruzzaman fitting a bomb unit officer with the Kevlar armour.

KUALA LUMPUR - Not many people can boast of wearing a RM160,000 (S$61,400) suit to work but for the officers of Bukit Aman's bomb disposal unit, putting on such an expensive "uniform" is all in a day's work.

Despite its hefty price tag, they do not rejoice when they put on the Kevlar and foam armour.

"That's because the suit won't keep you alive in case of a major blast. It will keep you in one piece, so your family can collect your body," said Malaysia Bomb Data Centre head ASP Kamaruzzaman Basri, who has been working in bomb disposal since 2008. Officers spend years in training for armament and bomb disposal, specialising in neutralising old unexploded World War II bombs, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and post-blast investigations.

The unit gets about 30 calls a month and the officers spend most of their field time being inches away from a potential explosive device.

"We dispose a lot of old bombs, which we call unexploded ordinances (UXO) which are usually safe and a few IEDs. But every second is still stressful because we don't know what could happen," he said yesterday.

Despite the risky nature of the job, ASP Kamaruzzaman said the unit had not experienced any untoward incident since 1998 and had made strides in making operations safe with the use of robots and disruptors to remotely neutralise bombs.

The unit has performed over 3,500 sweeps nationwide and have successfully sniffed out and destroyed 800 explosive devices since 2011.

In Muar, Bukit Aman Logistics Department director Datuk Zulkifli Abdullah said the unit is equipped with robots, vehicles and special bomb suits worth RM35.8mil to carry out bomb disposal.

"Recently, two mini robotic vehicles from Britain worth RM1.8mil were added to their arsenal," he said during a disposal demonstration at the Royal Malaysian Police Technical College in Bakri, Muar on Thursday.

Zulkifli said the department was also working with the Universiti Malaya engineering faculty to develop better robotics as safer measures for bomb disposal. The department itself was also coming up with an "incinerator project" that is designed to dispose of obsolete and damaged amunition, or armaments that were used as evidence in completed court proceedings. It is expected to save the force RM228,995 a year.