CBRN Investments
© 2007 FrontLine Defence (Vol 4, No 3)

With two recent announcements of contract awards and others pending, DND has clearly begun to show the results of post-9/11 investments in CBRN defence. In January, the Government awarded a $3.9 million contract to deliver 250 AP4C handheld chemical detectors. This purchase represents one of six deliverables under the $95 million Chemical Agent Sensor project and will provide the Canadian Forces (CF) with a tactical-level, hand-carried sensor for detecting and monitoring chemical concentrations, and for confirming the efficacy of decontamination operations.

Two months later, a $31 million contract was awarded for Vital Point Biological Sentry systems. These are modernized, more capable versions of the 4WARN system that has been in use for almost a decade. DND is acquiring six full, ­networked systems, each intended to ­provide area security for deployments, and 23 individual detectors for a variety of applications.

Both of these contracts meet requirements established within the CBRN Defence Omnibus Project. The Omnibus is a management structure providing shared services and commonality in delivery to its sub-projects. The overall CBRN Defence Capability Production Programme includes the Omnibus and five legacy projects, most of which are in implementation.

Previously managed by the Direc­torate of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Defence, and now by the Directorate of Joint Capability Production (DJCP), the programme is realizing the support and added focus that ensued after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Additional funding flowed to DND in several forms, and CBRN Defence ­projects were accorded a heightened importance within the Department’s capability investment plan. For example, the Government established the CBRN Research and Tech­nology Initiative to promote CBRN defence among the country’s first responders, and gave DND the responsibility for managing this ­programme. The Public Security and Anti-Terrorism (PSAT) envelope similarly enabled departments to enhance their efforts and capabilities in this area. This was of particular importance to DND, because PSAT funding allowed it to stand up the Joint NBC Defence Company in 2002. Since then, this unit has continued to expand its abilities to deal with potential CBRN incidents, both domestically and internationally.

For DJCP, the principal effect of the post-9/11 reaction was that it paved the way for faster advancement of CBRN defence projects.

The Vital Point Biological Sentry ­project and the Horizon 1 Chemical Protective Suit project were the first off the mark, having already been close to Departmental approval and gaining significant impetus from the new climate. The latter project will complete delivery of 48,000 suits in July 2007, via a contract with Pacific Safety Products of Kelowna, B.C. As part of this project, DND will acquire the world’s first automated body sizing capability, to simplify the suit-size selection process.

One legacy project, the Nuclear Detection, Identification, and Dosimetry system, was well underway at 9/11 and closed in September 2006, having delivered systems for radiological monitoring, collection, detection, spectroscopy and dosimetry.

Similarly, the Decontamination project pre-dated 9/11 and, after a series of delays due to challenges within the industry, is now poised to issue requests for proposal. Its deliverables fall into six categories: vehicles, personnel, small and large sensitive equipment, static installations and paved surfaces.

Another legacy project, Respiratory Protection, evolved when a trial revealed that personnel were generally not achieving the levels of filtering that their masks were capable of affording. The trial also revealed that, properly fitted, the CF’s gas mask can provide a protection factor ­several times higher than it was designed for. This project, soon to ‘hit the street,’ will emplace procedures and equipment to ensure that higher levels of protection will be provided.

The fifth and last legacy project is about to enter implementation phase. The Trans­port­able Collective Protection project is intended to provide shelter for up to 1000 personnel and allow for the continuity of critical operations throughout a CBRN incident or threat. Shelters will be provided, primarily for command and control and medical/surgical activities, but also has applications for personal rest and recuperation and small-scale maintenance.

As previously mentioned, the Omnibus’ Chemical Agent Sensor project consists of six components. The hand-held detector, whose contract was just announced, is the first through the starting gates but will soon be followed by requests for proposals (RFPs) for the portable detector and the sampling, identification and transportation kit. The last part of Phase 1, the chemical identifier, will be delayed pending developments in industry. Phase 2, the personal detector, has just received governmental approval and is poised to move towards the RFP milestone. Phase 3, area detection, is a bit ­further off as it awaits engineering development of standoff chemical detection at the Valcartier laboratory of Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC).

The NBC Reconnaissance project will equip the Joint NBC Defence Company with both manned and remotely operated vehicles for both domestic and international operations. The domestic version will be based on a small commercial truck while the international variant plans to find its home in a Bison armoured vehicle. The remote vehicle for the international role will be the Multi-Agent Tactical Sentry vehicle, developed by DRDC Suffield. On the domestic front, the remote component will be based on an engineering vehicle.

While the need for sensors is fairly obvious, one must consider what to do with their outputs and signals. This is where the Sensor Integration and Decision Support project comes to the fore. It will field a capability to collect, process and disseminate data from the sensors, apply prediction algorithms to forecast movement of the hazard across the battlespace, and then provide a decision-aid to commanders, enabling them to safely and effectively manage operations in face of the threat.

Rounding out the Omnibus’ components are two projects in definition and four in the earlier, options analysis phase.

The CF has a casualty bag in service for the transport of injured personnel through contaminated areas, but this old equipment has many deficiencies. The Casualty Bag project, being run by DJCP for the Health Services Group, will address those shortcomings by procuring bags that allow most emergency medical procedures to be conducted while the patient is fully protected from CBRN contamination. This same capability can be adapted to bio-isolate patients who have communicable diseases, thereby preventing further spread of biological agents.

Established as a placeholder project, Bio Diagnostics is awaiting developments by our principal allies that promise to provide a deployable capacity to effect medical diagnoses without the need for ‘reachback’ consultations that are time-consuming and fraught with difficulties.

Recent developments at DRDC in standoff detection have prompted the initiation of two new projects. The Biological Warning project will introduce a bio-standoff sensing capability to afford warning of the approach of biological contamination. Current systems are able to provide only a post-incident indication that contamination has occurred. This project will build on a Technology Demonstration project at DRDC Valcartier that is leading the world in this field.

At the same time, DRDC Ottawa has developed the world’s first standoff radiation detector. Now with NATO support, this should move quickly from laboratory model to a fieldable capability, and the Radiation Protection project intends to take advantage of it. As well, the project will integrate sensors from the earlier nuclear project into the system introduced by the Sensor Integration and Decision Support ­project. Lastly, it will develop an interface between the new dosimetry capability and Health Canada’s national radiation exposure recording system.

As all projects are intended to supply the CF’s joint forces, thorough and continuous consultation occurs with project staffs and the force generators: Navy, Army, Air Force and the Special Opera­tions Force Command. Representa­tives of all four sit on the CBRN Defence Senior Review Board and collaborate to ensure that the projects acquire universally applicable capabilities.

The Omnibus project itself strives for commonality among deliverables of all of its sub-projects. This is achieved through standing contracts for such aspects as training delivery and doctrine development, through standardized approaches to approval documentation, and via formalized training of project staffs.

If no man is an island, then no project team can be without its partners. This is eminently true of the CBRN defence team. While the DJCP staff conceives the projects and attains approval and funding for them, it relies heavily upon the Directorate of Soldier Systems Project Management and the Directorate of Combat Systems Equipment Manage­ment for the implementation phases of the projects. In fact, staff from the three directorates work as single team throughout the projects’ life cycles.

Another key partner is DRDC and this article has mentioned some of the team’s involvement with three of the ­laboratories. Other work is done with DRDC Toronto and with research staff at the Royal Military College of Canada. DJCP serves as advisor to DRDC’s overall CBRN research effort, to ensure that R&D fully aligns with operational CBRN requirements of the joint forces. This has evolved into a harmonious relationship that provides excellent service to the CF and maximizes the likelihood that DRDC scientists will see their developments find their way to operational use.

There is nothing worse, in the operational world, than receiving new equipment without the wherewithal to operate it effectively. To ­prevent this situation, the CBRN projects include training development from cradle to grave. All CBRN courses conducted at the CF’s NBC School at CFB Borden have had full reviews twice in the last four years and are set up to provide instruction on the new equipment beginning to enter service and align with CF transformation.

The project teams pay similar attention to such essentials as modeling and simula­tion, doctrine development, provision of spares, and other forms of in-service support.

The media frequently makes dire predictions of impending attacks that would feature chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons, however, these threats are very real, and Canada and its military are not immune from them. Whether at home or abroad, CF personnel will have the capabilities they need to minimize the threat posed by such weapons and the means to resume normal operations in short order following any such attack.

To use a simple analogy, investing in CBRN defence is akin to purchasing insurance coverage. It is always hoped that such protection is not needed, but it is important to maintain.
LCol Rick Barker, of the Directorate of Joint Capability Production, is responsible for the CF’s CBRN Defence programme.
© FrontLine Defence 2007