Researchers Seek New Ways To Protect Chem-Bio Victims.
The briefing--sponsored by the U.S. Army Soldier and Chemical Command (SBCCOM) and the National Defense Industrial Association--took place at the Army's Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md.
The 2001 budget provides about $150 million to improve diagnosis and treatment of chemical or biological attack victims, according to Carol Linden, director for chemical-biological defense at the Army Medical Research and Material Command (AMRMC) at Fort Detrick, Md.
"One thing we want to do is simplify the diagnostic process by developing a one diagnostic capability set," Linden said.
After such an attack, medical teams have limited amounts of time to treat victims, officials said. Chemical agents, they noted, act almost immediately, while biological devices begin claiming casualties within a few days after the attack. Thus, Linden said, it is imperative for health professionals to move quickly.
"Our goal is to reduce casualties," she said. "Casualties resulting from such an attack would create a huge logistics tail, when you consider the great number of people who could be affected."
The medical defense programs at Fort Detrick serve all of the armed services, conducting research on diagnosis, vaccines and follow-up therapies, Linden said. "Our focus is to provide medical solutions for the warfighter," she said.
A major aim of chemical-biological research is the eventual development of a group of multi-agent vaccines, Linden said. This could lead to the "reduction, even elimination of casualties that would otherwise follow a chemical-biological attack," she said.
That, in turn, might "deter employment and proliferation of these kinds of weapons" altogether, Linden reasoned.
A long working relationship between AMRMC and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)--focusing on unconventional technologies, which include quicker identification methods for chemical-biological substances--is proving successful, said Linden. "This relationship has now grown from scientific exchanges to the programatic level," she reported.
A vaccine has been developed against anthrax, which Pentagon officials consider "the number one biological threat." Anthrax is an airborne virus that attacks the respiratory system. Infection "is almost invariably fatal, if not treated quickly," said a Pentagon official. Even with prompt treatment, the likelihood of death is 80 percent.
According to a 1993 Congressional Office of Technology Assessment study, an aerosolized release of 100 kilograms of anthrax spores upwind of Washington, D.C., could cause between 130,000 and 3 million deaths.
Believing that members of the armed services face the most immediate danger of attack, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen has ordered that all military personnel, including the Coast Guard, National Guard and reserves be vaccinated against anthrax. In 1998 and 1999, more than 395,000 members of the armed services--including the highest-ranking officials in the Pentagon--received the shots.
Some service personnel, however, have refused the vaccinations, citing religious beliefs or fears of side effects. But such side effects are rare, Linden said. You don't see them "until you vaccinate large numbers of people," she explained.
Nevertheless, she conceded that treatment and therapy programs for chemical and biological attacks are complex. She cited mustard gas, used in World War I. "We've been working on this one for the last 100 years," she said.
Gulf War Issues
"More recently, we are still trying to sort out and deal with the issues that arose during the Gulf War."
After the war, veterans reported symptoms of what is known as the Gulf War illness--that some suggested might have been linked to vaccines administered during the conflict.
About 150,000 U.S. military personnel who served in the theater received anthrax vaccinations, according to Defense Department figures. As many as 8,000 doses of botulism vaccine were also administered. Several studies, however, have failed to establish any evidence to connect the vaccinations with Gulf War illness.
At present, research teams at Fort Detrick--which is located near Frederick, Md.--are working to develop vaccines against botulinum and plague, using recombinant DNA techniques to shorten development time and improve quality, Linden said. The projected fielding dates for the two vaccines are 2009 for botulinum and 2006 for plague.
Development of antibodies to protect against the effects of biological weapons remains a high priority with scientists at Fort Detrick, Linden said. "The body doesn't have an immune reaction to botulinum, and it leaves no trace in the bloodstream," she said.
This fact underscores the reasons why prevention through appropriate vaccines, combined with advanced distance detection and speedy, accurate communications, are all imperatives, concluded Linden.
At Dahlgren, Va., south of Washington, D.C., the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NAVSEA) is developing a way to identify chemical-biological agents from a distance, thus adding to the safety margin for both military combat personnel and emergency medical teams responding to disasters, said Mike Abaie, director of the program, which is called Artemis.
The program borrows its name from Artemis, the Greek goddess, "the protector of nature, youth and other wild things," said Abaie.
When operational, this system will advance protection to a higher level by using up-to-date chemical-biological sensing devices that connected to the latest analyzing software for faster identification results, Abaie explained. Sensors presently come in different sizes and shapes and possess various levels of capability, he said.
"Our object is eventually to detect and [identify] from a range of zero to 40 kilometers," he said.
The Navy has been designated the lead agency on the project, but Artemis is a joint team project, Abaie stressed. To help insure that the new system can be used by all of the organizations that need it, advice for designing its components will be sought directly from military personnel and their counterparts in civilian law-enforcement and fire and rescue units, he said.
Artemis is still in the planning and evaluation stage, but is nearing Milestone I certification, which is important because it allows work on this advanced detection system to proceed, Abaie said.
One unique feature that the program offers is the ability to switch automatically from search and detection, to tracking and identification of chemical-biological compounds or gases, he said.
These functions include mapping and monitoring chemical cloud--or plume-- direction. This involves constructing models of wind-current directions and predicting where toxic substances may drift in the aftermath of a chemical-biological attack or incident.
Another important identification capability will be the ability to make surface contamination predictions--analyzing soil samples--while on the move, said Abaie. Artemis will also lower the false-alarm rate, by using more efficient and accurate sensors and on-the-spot analyzing capabilities. In addition, the system must be minimum weight and size, Abaie said.
Planners intend to merge Artemis with the planned Joint Warning and Reporting Network (JWARN) system, Abaie explained. This will make an advanced detection, identification and warning system more readily available to a widening circle of military and civilian chemical-biological incident-containment units. These organizations currently possess widely disparate capabilities that hinder joint operations because everybody has different equipment, said Abaie.
Artemis isn't projected for production until 2007, but Abaie is optimistic that it will meet that deadline. "[Fortunately]...detection is an area that is receiving most of the money," Abaie said.
JWARN is being developed by the Marine Corps to meet the combined needs of all four services. When complete, JWARN will link nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) sensors with other mission application software and is interfaced with command, control, communication, computer, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems employed throughout the services, explained program manager Tony Alley.
"The object is to create a more complete, real-time operational picture of the NBC battlespace than presently exists," he said. Besides assisting with NBC battle management, Alley said, JWARN will permit a better understanding of potential dangers by using what he called, "downwind prediction models."
"The primary mission of JWARN will be to provide a joint force with a comprehensive response capability that would minimize the effects of either a hostile NBC attack or an industrial incident," Alley stated.
Basically, JWARN will have to possess a two-way interface capability with any present or future C4ISR systems, he continued. It must also be able to collect, generate and edit NBC reports, which will then be formatted and transmitted within two minutes after the first detection of an NBC substance. In addition, it will be necessary for JWARN to be integrated with all currently existing legacy detectors and sensors, Alley added.
JWARN completed Block I Fielding tests in May 1998, and successfully cleared its Interim Program Review (IPR) in February 2000, said Alley. It should enter its engineering, manufacturing, development (EMD) phase in January 2001, he said. This stage of development is scheduled to last through 2003, with production scheduled to begin in early 2004.
The estimated value of the Block II production contract could be $80 million, he said.
The biggest technical barriers, Alley said, are "multiple [C.sup.4]ISR platforms" that currently exist across the services, "with varying interface requirements."
Overcoming this interoperability problem is one of the greatest challenges, he said, appealing to private industry partners for help.
The JWARN device must stay small and lightweight, have multiple power sources and universal mounting capability and be NBC survivable, he said.
Light, Portable Detector to Be Used by All U.S. Military Services
Small, rugged, portable, chemical detectors that can be networked are among the technologies needed today at the Defense Department, officials said during a briefing hosted by the U.S. Army Soldier and Chemical Command (SBCCOM), in Aberdeen, Md.
One program seeking such technologies is the Joint Chemical Agent Detector (JCAD), which is a next-generation, portable detection system for individual use, said Air Force Capt. Patrice Moore, a representative from the Human Systems Programs Office at Brooks Air Force Base, Texas.
JCAD weighs two pounds and occupies 40 cubic inches of space. It is light enough to fit in a pack and can be mounted on vehicles, aircraft or aboard ships. JCAD can be adapted to stand-alone configurations for survey missions, Moore said.
For instance, eye damage can result from low-level accumulations of chemical agents that can collect inside of an aircraft--particularly helicopters and transports--over the course of a mission, she explained. For this reason, the ability to detect low levels of chemical agents, 12 hours after the mission has been completed, is a capability that the Air Force wants to have, said Moore.
"JCAD is sufficiently sensitive to warn aircrews before dangerous dose-level accumulations occur," she said. The device also is small and rugged enough to be used by forces on the ground, Moore added.
JCAD will be integrated [networked] with other chemical detection and evaluation platforms, said Moore. "It is important to provide effective detection and warning for long-term, low-dose hazards," she commented.
The device features a low unit cost of $2,000, said Moore. This is a JCAD feature that the Air Force is determined to maintain, she continued.
After gaining Milestone III approval for JCAD in November 1997, BAE Systems was awarded an engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) contract.
When the Systems Program Office requested an additional $5.7 million for 1999, however, to cover the second EMD contract, funding was routed, instead, to other NBC defense programs, Air Force officials said.
Currently, the United States and the United Kingdom are sharing information and loaning one another prototypes of the JCAD, said Moore. Foreign comparative testing has already started at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, Md.
In September 2001, 168 units are scheduled for testing, said Moore. The challenge to industry, she said, is to prove, through development and testing, that small chemical detectors, such as JCAD, are actually capable of delivering what they advertise.
That means, Moore said, detection sensitivity and small, lightweight packaging that can survive environmental extremes caused by weather and chemical substances, plus meet desired platform and operational requirements--all this by 2002. A sole-source contract award is slated to run between 2002 and 2007, she said. The estimated value could run as high as $546 million. This money could buy more than 270,000 JCADs, said Moore.--Stephen Willingham
Robust Chem-Bie Defenses Sought for Next-Gen Vehicle
The combat vehicles planned for 2012 and beyond offer the Army a valuable opportunity to enhance defensive capabilities against chemical, biological and radiological threats, said an Army expert.
These vehicles are in the early stages of design under the so-called FCS program, or future combat system. The platforms are expected to weigh 20 tons or less, compared to today's 70-ton tanks, and will be equipped with advanced communications networks and sensors, so that a platoon of vehicles can fight together as a "system of systems."
The Army currently operates and continues to develop an assortment of detectors and protective gear to safeguard soldiers and vehicles against nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) agents.
Under current plans, the Army and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will invest nearly a billion dollars on FCS research and development during the next five years. That makes the FCS an ideal vehicle to integrate NBC defenses into a "network-centric FCS concept," said Jim H. Zarzycki, director of the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center. The center has worked on chemical and biological warfare since World War I and "stands ready to assist" in the FCS effort, Zarzycki told an industry conference in Tysons Corner, Va.
"For the first time, there is a chance for NBC sensors to be integrated into the whole Army sensor system, and NBC will be part of the command and control of the Army," he said. "There is a rich technology base out there. ... There is an opportunity for an overall NBC net-centric approach."
He estimated that the Army will invest $100 million between 2001 and 2004 on NBC-related research that "should fit directly into FCS."
The Defense Department's NBC program includes participation from all the military services.
The FCS program, said Zarzycki, should address individual and collective protection by providing more capable filtration systems. The FCS' ability to disseminate NBC detection information throughout the battlefield also will help avoid contamination, he said. Another focal point for FCS should be "NBC battle management," explained Zarzycki. That means providing communications links among the participants in the battle so that everyone receives accurate threat data.
"You need to tie together the sensor information, get it to trigger a warning or get detection to trigger contamination avoidance," said Zarzycki. The next step would be to tie the NBC sensors to non-NBC sensors, such as radar, to get a "situational awareness picture" of enemy and friendly units. An unmanned aircraft, for example, would fly over a manufacturing plant, and the sensor data would tell the commander whether there is a chemical agent cloud in the atmosphere. The information from the NBC sensors, said Zarzycki, "needs to be married to information from other sensors, such as meteorological, so they can predict how that cloud will move and disperse downwind and do hazard prediction in real time."
Experts at Edgewood believe the Army's lightweight combat vehicles would benefit from technologies such as a regenerative NBC filtration system, which protects against liquid, aerosol and vapor threats. "For years, the solution for filtration has been a single-pass filter system. We use activated carbon to absorb the vapor, and a high-efficiency glass fiber filter for particulate material," noted Zarzycki. "That approach is used for gas masks or large filter systems that are found shipboard. It's a simple, low cost approach. But the problem is the logistics. You need to replace filters regularly." The filters also tend to malfunction in high-humidity environments.
A regenerative filtration system eliminates the need to replace filters, he added. It also helps control temperature and humidity levels.
The bulk of the investments has gone into chemical and biological detectors, Zarzycki said, both for point detection and standoff detection. The systems will be useful for the FCS. Point detection means the contaminant comes into physical contact with the sensor and it is analyzed. In standoff detection, the sensor sees the contaminant at a distance and recognizes it, but the contaminant never comes in contact with the sensor.
For point detection of chemical agents, researchers at Edgewood are working on technologies such as ion mobility spectrometers, surface acoustic wave devices and mass spectrometers. For biological detection, said Zarzycki, "our tech base is focusing on a single platform that gives you both chemical and biological detection."
One approach to this "single platform concept" is a system called Py-GC-IMS, which stands for pyrolisis-gas chromatography-ion mobility spectrometer. It is a shoebox-size biological and chemical agent detector, which weighs about 10 pounds. The system works on the principle of "sniff and tell." Pyrolysis means heating the biological agent to about 400 degrees Celsius and producing the sniff vapors. For chemical agents, the vapors are present in the air, so no heating is required. The sniffed vapors are injected into a gas chromatography column, where the vapors are separated into individual compounds. These components are sequentially introduced into a standard military-issue chemical agent monitor--called ICAM--which identifies the compounds.
So far, said Zarzycki, "we have had some success in biological detection." Field trials of the portable detector were scheduled to take place in Canada this year.
Edgewood officials estimate that the system will cost about $10,000, if produced in large quantities. It currently costs $30,000, when produced in-house.
Mass spectrometry is the technology currently used in the Army's Fox armored vehicle, which gained notoriety during the Persian Gulf War in 1991. The next generation, said Zarzycki, will include a chemical-biological mass spectrometer. "For the first time in the field, the same instrument will be able to do chemical and biological detection."
For biological detection, explained Zarzycki, "you need an efficient air collection system. That has been a serious challenge."
Standoff detection work largely has been based on infrared (IR) technology. "We've made advances in putting JR sensors on unmanned aerial vehicles," he noted. "The passive approach works very well for chemical detection but doesn't work very well for biological detection. For that, we need an active LIDAR system." LIDAR (laser imaging detection and ranging system) is a high-resolution electro-optical imaging device. LIDAR works for chemical detection as well, said Zarzycki. "We are hopeful we will build a detector for both chemical and biological detection. We are trying to get a small enough system that can be mounted on a vehicle." The weight goal is 200 pounds, and it would be able to pick up a biological agent cloud our to 3 kilometers.
The combination of ultraviolet laser and IR has been demonstrated successfully in larger systems, said Zarzycki. The laser can distinguish particles, discriminating road dust from biological agents, allowing an operator to determine that a cloud contains a warfare agent, versus a natural biological substance such as pollen.
Sandra I. Erwin
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|Date:||Dec 1, 2000|
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