Escaping hazards

The military modernization of China has surprised every country in the world. The best thing about the whole modernization process of Chinese military is that they are preparing themselves to counter any kind of futuristic threats. China is having border dispute with many countries in the region but with India it is a serious bone of contention.

The changing requirement of modern battlefield has increased the risks coming from unexpected and deadly threats. The new war scenario can be lethal and precise aimed at maximum damage. And the fear of getting such means of weapons in the hands of adversaries or non state actors poses a bigger challenge.

China is also now preparing its military to meet all eventualities in this direction for which it has decided to equip its forces with latest generation of counter NBC warfare equipments. The Chinese Army has now commissioned new NBC protective clothing for artillery troops.

New-type protective clothing has been recently commissioned to the equipment testing troops under the Second Artillery Force (SAF) of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The successful development and distribution of the new-type protective clothing have filled the gap in protection of weaponry and equipment operation in China’s strategic missile force.

The new-type protective clothing of the SAF includes 62 types in 7 series such as protective mask, canister, protective boots, protective gloves and cooling vest, and it covers an individual soldier’s living, training and combat, serves the function of all-around protection and can meet the needs of special operations.

Compared with the old-type one, the new-type protective clothing is in the greater emphasis on protective properties. It achieves an important breakthrough in anti-corrosion and development of canister technology, and solves the problem of protective technique under the environment
of high-concentration toxic fuel vaporization, enhancing the protective effect by 70 percent.

Also, the new-type protective clothing is 3.1 kilograms lighter than the old one. Using high-tech materials, it is tightly closed but more breathable, making operators feel more comfortable.    

By now, all the officers and men at special positions of the Chinese SAF have many pieces of protective clothing adaptive to different operational environments.

New threats

It is unfortunate, but the world we live in today is not necessarily as safe as we’d like, and advancements in science and technology combined with the determination of some terrorist groups makes us all worry from time to time.

With the possibility of nuclear and biological weapons falling in the hands of terrorists being real, the civilians in densely populated region have come up as potential targets. The current reality of the use of modern biotechnology, new chemical agents, and the recent relatively easier accessibility for fissile materials and technology for making tactical nuclear weapons, presents governments with a new reality and a changed CBRN scenario.

The threat of a nuclear terrorist attack seems to be looming over us more strongly than ever during recent years, particularly after some of the horrific acts of terrorism that have been carried out all over the world. Further, the threat of chemical and biological attack, which is equally dangerous and deadly, presents a significant challenge when it comes to combating such weapons of mass destruction.

The threats from chemical and biological weapons are real; these weapons have been used in the past and the degree of damage which they have unleashed is serious.

Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defence (CBRN) is protective measures taken in situations in which any of these hazards are present. CBRN defence consists of CBRN passive protection, contamination avoidance and CBRN mitigation.

Recent analysis has concluded that worldwide government spending on CBRN defence products and services will cross $10 billion by 2015.

Militaries all over the world have taken the time to formulate some sort of strategy or plan in case of an attack of this nature occurs, but the sad fact is that no matter how many plans are in place there is certainly no guarantee of survival because so much depends upon factors over which we have no control.

For instance, the location of the attack could determine the chances of survival-shelter or no shelter, living in an area close to the attack could result in death simply from the blast. However, there are several types of danger involved in nuclear attack, and advance planning could help to protect you against some of these dangers.

In these contemporary times, the persistent threat of war has made the bomb shelter an integral and ultimately necessary component of human history. Although defined diversely, a bomb shelter is basically a physical place where individuals attain safety during a bombing.

The bomb shelter dates back to either World War II or the Cold War. Once the Cold War ended, however, many of the bomb shelters went into disrepair.

Bomb shelters

While the historical bomb shelter was used heavily during WWII, the bomb shelter of subsequent eras has been appropriated to grapple with the ongoing threat of the nuclear war. This has been a primary function of the bomb shelter since the 1950s.

Generally, this newer model of the old bomb shelter is able to protect occupants from the radioactive particles that could fall from the sky as a result of ground-burst atomic bombing. But even a bomb shelter with lack of protective measures, contaminated food and water or poor ventilation could pose a serious problem.

It is believed that Switzerland has the highest bomb shelter-to-person ratio of all countries. Ultimately, the bomb shelters of Switzerland are plentiful enough to provide refuge for the country’s entire population for two years following a nuclear war. 

Other countries have made great use of the bomb shelter, also. Finland, for example, requires that any building or structure that exceeds 600 m2 contain a bomb shelter. In Sweden, structures exceeding 1000 m2 have to have one. The key feature of a bomb shelter (or fallout shelter) is that it provides enough shielding to protect citizens from the radiation being emitted from fallout particles.

Though in India these sorts of shelters are only made for VVIP and political leaders, the common man will have to suffer. For immediate relief some can take refuge in metro station and subways but they are not safe for a long time.

In United States, people make protective bomb shelters well equipped to counter even NBC attack as a precautionary measure. There are many companies which offer these services at a minimal cost. However in India, there are few private companies engaged in such equipments and DRDO, which has the funds and capabilities, lacks the technology and infrastructure.

Bomb shelters, sometimes called fallout shelters are underground structures that protect people from hostile attacks, explosions and air raids. They were also designed to protect the occupants from radioactive debris, as well as gamma rays emitted by them. These bomb shelters were commonly seen during World War 2, but since then many people in Europe and US have built their own bomb shelters within their area even under their homes for personal use.

Bomb shelters ensure survival for hours, days or even weeks. With good ventilation and sufficient food, water and emergency medical kits, it should ensure your safety for a long time. Westerners find it easy and smartly invest in a bomb shelter as a precautionary measure.

Fallout shelters are designed to protect against the fallout following a nuclear explosion-they will not protect against a direct hit from the blast. Fallout shelters come in many shapes and sizes, and some come equipped with the basic items that will be required to stay for a longer time, if necessary.

This includes artificial lighting, cooking facilities, water, heat, blankets, radio, radiation detectors, basic furniture, first aid facilities, chemical toilet and even games to keep the occupants busy. These shelters are also ventilated and can be even installed inside home or buried/partially buried in the garden. However, basement of few building can also be used as a shelter.

Protective bunkers

In US and many European countries there are many private companies which manufactures the high end NBC bunkers which can protect people from such deadly attacks. Though India is also gearing up to create protective bunkers but largely it is meant for VIP and top brass people. The civilians will have to suffer in the lack of such facilities.

The main components of a protective bunker are blast doors and hatches, blast valves, ventilation pipes, and a NBC filters.

Lunor provides a complete range of technology for shelters and hardened structures. Established in 1947, Lunor is one of the world’s leading companies in the field of NBC protection for military, civilian and industrial applications. They specialize in blast resistant doors, blast protection valves, gastight dampers, Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) filtering systems, and air handling units. All their products are built to the latest standards of and approved by the Swiss Civil Defense Organization. Protection from chemical agents and radioactive fallout requires ventilation units, which are equipped with valves, prefilters and NBC filters. NBC ventilation units create overpressure inside the shelter, preventing harmful gases from leaking inside. Lunor NBC-filters GF are sophisticated, compact, shockproof units designed to clean the air coming from the contaminants. Lunor offers a wide range of ventilation and filtering units for shelters. In case of need, the NBC-filter can be connected by means of flexible hoses, in order to clean the air from residual fine radioactive dust, bacterium and all kinds of known war gases.

Kinetics established in 1985, is a world leader in the area of NBC / CBRN protection, heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) / environmental control systems (ECS), auxiliary power units (APU), life support systems (LSS), individual crew and equipment cooling systems (ICECS), military and airborne hydraulic systems. Kinetics’ NBC/CBRN protection systems (NBCS) can be provided as a stand-alone system or can be integrated within a comprehensive Life Support System (LSS) that can include NBC/CBRN Detection, Heating Ventilation & Air-Conditioning (HVAC), Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) and/or an Automatic Fire Suppression System (AFSS).

Hardened Military Structures are designed to meet or exceed current Mil Spec and NATO Third generation standards. Third generation NATO hardened Aircraft Shelters are designed to meet NATO AASTP-1 and Mil Spec 188-125-1. Hardened military structures are designed to withstand a wide range of threats including forced entry, CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) attacks, ground shock, penetration, fragmentation, and damage to the structure and equipment due to explosive loading. The Hardened Structures balanced survivability approach ensures that no significant facility failure mode has been overlooked. Their military structures include hardened aircraft hangers, ammunition storage facilities, and “Wonder Buildings”-a strong, space efficient earth-coverage system. The Hardened Structures team of specialized design firms and general contractors  provides US Department of Defense designs or design/build services for almost any type of military facility including: Deep Earth Command and Control Bunkers, NATO “Third Generation” Direct Attack Aircraft Hangers, Earth Cover Magazines (ECM’s), Hardened, Above-ground Blast & Ballistic Resistant Facilities, and EMP/HEMP Protected Facilities.

At Advanced Survival Technology, they design civilian Bomb/Blast/Ballistic Shelters primarily for nuclear weapons of medium to large size, but also secondary for chemical, biological, and radiological dispersion devices and conventional weapons, also known as Weapons of Mass Destruction or WMD’s. Although the design and dimensions are principally determined for nuclear weapons it can be established that a highly functioning nuclear bomb shelter also offers excellent protection against chemical, biological, and conventional weapons along with most types of WMD’s. In addition, with the ever increasing importance of having EMP (Electro-Magnetic pulse) protection of Shelters, and other “HARDENED” structures, they provide State-of-the Art EMP/HEMP mitigation both in terms of Bomb/Blast Shelter design and engineering, which incorporates EMP shielding, and the usage of specialized EMP/HEMP mitigation components.

OWR AG is the leading specialist for efficient NBC decontamination of personnel, equipment, vehicles, terrain and clothing-from portable decontamination equipment to complete container solutions. The unique patented low-pressure DEDAS system it possible to mix all known decontamination chemicals in the required quantity and in minimum time. They also offer special detection equipment, such as the Fox NBC Reconnaissance Vehicle, as well as personnel protection equipment and detection vehicles for civilian use. Their proven high-quality products are used in large numbers by military organizations and civil defence installations all over the world.

Temet is the brand name in technology for shelters and protective buildings designed against threats originating from terrorism, military actions or industrial accidents. The product range covers blast-resistant doors, blast valves, gastight valves, NBC/CBRN filters, filtration systems and carbon dioxide removal systems. Temet provides solutions for civil defence shelters, military facilities and vehicles, and also to control rooms and personnel facilities in petrochemical and other industries. Temet’s product range for hardened shelters is complemented with soft indoor shelters equipped with effective filtration for NBC-agents and toxic industrial chemicals. Temet provides the latest technology in collective NBC protection. Temet NBC filters remove all toxic military agents from the intake air.

Beth-El Industries is a world leader in the development, design and manufacture of filtration, ventilation and air-conditioning technologies, and the integration of turn-key projects. The company was founded in 1973 and has since sold systems to more than 60 armies worldwide, which include most of the NATO states, most European countries, as well as a large number of forces in the Far East. Tens of thousands of systems have been supplied and installed, and a substantial number are in daily use in peacekeeping operations around the globe. All Beth-El systems have been thoroughly tested by military and government institutes around the world and comply with the strictest standards worldwide.

NBC-Sys-subsidiary of Nexter group-is a leading expert in various technologies for protection against Nuclear, Radiological, Biological or Chemical threats (CBRN). Its range of products covers detection (chemical or biological), individual protection (gas masks, filtering canisters, air conditioning and filtration installed onboard vehicles or in buildings) as well as decontamination (aircraft, vehicles, sensitive equipment and people). In order to respond more appropriately to its customers’ requirements (military or civilian), NBC-Sys develops an active policy of preparing for the future by devoting 20% of its turnover to R&D. With 80% of its workforce comprising of technicians and engineers, NBC-Sys can rely on expertise based on creativity, know-how and customer support.

The fallout risk comes about due the crater that can be caused following a nuclear explosion. The earth from the crater is transformed into hot gas and dust due to the heat, and this rises up in the form of a fireball.

As the fireball rises, radioactive materials from the detonated weapon attach themselves to dust and dirt particles, and as the fire goes out and cools into a cloud formation, the wind carries it and spreads it into different areas. As this happens, the radioactive particles fall out of the air and are scattered at ground level, on the ground, on buildings, in waters etc. The fallout from the first 24 hours following detonation is the most dangerous as these particles are still highly radioactive. The fallout following the initial 24 hours will have lost some of its radioactivity by the time it reaches ground level. Fallout can continue for anything from a matter of months to years.

However, fallout shelters are not favored by everyone and many people prefer the idea of getting as far away from the blast as possible in order to minimize the effects. In this case one should have complete protection in terms of masks and clothing to avoid the hazardous effects of any CRBN attack.

NBC clothing

Bacteria, gases, and unidentified chemical agents are all risks associated with today’s unconventional warfare. To provide comprehensive protection against a wide range of NBC hazards, identification, quantification, and protection are the main components. A reliable warning system is a prerequisite for NBC protection, which explains why the US Armed Forces depend on cutting-edge sensor and analytical technologies.  

Many US companies offers a wide range of mobile gas detection and measurement devices to provide quick and reliable indication of danger in the field. They are equipped with highly sensitive sensors that measure and detect a multitude of toxic or hazardous substances at extremely low thresholds.

Now the US military is using wide range of NBC gear and clothing. The idea is to make a soldier fully protected in the most difficult environment. For this they are using following types of suit technologies.

Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology Chemical Protective Overgarment-The JSLIS, also called CPO, has a service life of 120 days; of which 45 days is the maximum wear time. It can be laundered up to six times for personal-hygiene purposes and provides 24 hours of protection against liquid, solid, and/or vapor CB attacks. It also provides protection against radioactive alpha and beta particles.

Chemical Protective Undergarment-The CPU is a two-piece undergarment consisting of a formfitting undershirt and drawers. When the CPU is removed from its VB bag, its protective qualities last for a minimum of 15 days. The CPU can be laundered once for personal-hygiene purposes during its 15-day use. It provides protection from CB agents (solid, liquid, and vapor) for up to a 12-hour period. The CPU also protects against radioactive alpha and beta particles. When worn under a duty uniform, the CPU has also shown enhanced flash fire protection capabilities. The CPU is generally used by SOF, explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), technical escort, and depot personnel.

Battle Dress Over garment- The BDO is a camouflage-colored (woodland or desert), expendable, two-piece over garment consisting of one coat and one pair of trousers. The BDO is water-resistant but not waterproof, and it is normally worn as an outer garment. In extreme cold-weather environments, the BDO is sized to wear over arctic/extreme cold-weather environmental clothing; however, mission requirements may dictate that the BDO be worn under arctic clothing. When the BDO is removed from its VB bag and worn, it may be worn up to 22 days. Wear time can be increased to 30 days, with slight increases in risk, at the discretion of the commander. The BDO provides a minimum of 24 hours of protection against exposure to CB agents (solid, liquid, and vapor) and radioactive alpha and beta particles. While the BDO is not designed to be decontaminated or reimpregnated for reuse, the use of the M291 skin decontamination kit (SDK)/M295 decontamination kit, individual equipment (DKIE) on contaminated ensembles within 15 minutes of the time of exposure to liquid chemical agents will essentially maintain full protective capabilities of the BDO.

A/P22P-9A (V) Below-the-Neck Protective Assembly-The A/P22P-9A (V) below-the-neck protective assembly consists of the MK-1 flyer under all, cotton undershirt and cotton drawers, CP socks, disposable footwear covers, air crewman’s cape, and CP gloves and glove inserts. The MK-1 flyer under all is a one-piece chemical liner made from nylon viscose, nonwoven fabric treated with fluoro chemical liquid repellent. The inner surface is coated with activated charcoal. The cotton undershirt and drawers are worn under the chemical liner to prevent skin irritation from the charcoal lining and to minimize perspiration contamination of the chemical liner. The CP socks, made of 4-mil polyethylene, are vapor-agent impermeable and protect feet from CB agents. The standard CP gloves and inserts are made of butyl rubber, 7-mil thick; and the standard white inserts are 100 percent cotton knit.

Wet-Weather Gear-Wet-weather gear provides initial protection against liquid CB agents and radioactive alpha and beta particles in a cold and/or wet climate, both ashore and shipboard. The wet weather gear is made of green, chloroprene-coated nylon. The jacket style parka has a slide fastener with moisture barrier flaps, patch pockets, and a permanently attached hood.

Suit, Contamination Avoidance and Liquid Protective-The SCALP is a four piece ensemble and consists of a jacket, trousers, and two footwear covers. It is designed to be worn over the CPO (BDO or JSLIST) and CP over boots. The footwear covers have 12- mil embossed polyethylene soles. The components provide protection from gross liquid contamination for up to 1 hour. Users include land force elements such as EOD, technical escorts, or medical units.

Apron, Toxicological Agent Protective, M2- The apron, toxicological agent protective (TAP), M2 is intended for personnel whose duties may bring them into contact with liquid CB agents. For example, those who work with toxic munitions, perform decontamination in a field environment, handle contaminated clothing and equipment at a decontamination site, and handle and treat chemical agent casualties could use this item of clothing.

Self-Contained, Toxic-Environment Protective Outfit-The STEPO provides a totally encapsulating protective ensemble. The system can be configured in three separate modes of operation, depending on the mission and user requirements. STEPO includes a CP suit, a choice of breathing apparatuses (4-hour re-breather, tethered air supply with emergency SCBA, and standalone 60-minute SCBA), a battery-powered cooling system, and a hands-free communications system. The STEPO is used in extremely hazardous and/or oxygen-deficient environments where contact with CW agents, POL, missile fuels, and/or TIC can occur. The system provides the wearer with clean, closed-circuit breathing air and up to 4 hours of OSHA Level A protection. The CP suit can be used five times after exposure to vapor contamination and decontamination processes.

In the wake of Osama’s death, the instability of Middle Eastern countries possessing chemical weapons (i.e. Libya and Syria), today’s ease of individuals to make or obtain deadly chemicals - the threat of Chemical Warfare use by a rogue state or non-state actor has never been greater.

India’s preparedness

As the largest country in South Asia, India faces an important question of preparedness against these threats.

The deterrence against NBC can be achieved from a range of equipment and technology including detectors and reconnaissance vehicles along with other equipments like nanotechnology based sensors, micro UAVs, dosimeters which can measure an individual’s or an object’s exposure to hazardous exposure in the environment.

Besides, there are also advanced inflatable shelters which can withstand water threats and ward off solid NBC agents for at least 48 hours.

In 2012 the government of India has approved the formation of a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials center that will manage potential CBRN disasters.

So far the DRDO, which will establish this centre, has developed more than 60 technologies and products for CBRN defence that are produced by defence public sector undertakings, ordnance factories and the private sector before supplying the armed forces.

DRDO has announced several major steps to revamp its capabilities against nuclear, biological and chemical attack. The DRDO has reportedly invented a ‘Portable Gas Chromatograph’ which can detect chemical warfare agents. This has been converted into a chemical paper which will be placed on the uniform and any change in colour will enable the soldiers to detect chemical contamination.

It has invented an antigen-based diagnostic kit to aid in the diagnosis of typhoid, leptospirosis, dengue, H1N1, malaria, plague, anthrax and other diseases.

The newly invented recce vehicles and remotely-operated vehicle Daksh will also aid in identifying chemically contaminated areas and removing any potential radiation source. Mobile decontamination vehicles have also recently been announced by the DRDO.

Dass Hitachi, which claims to be the only indigenous company dealing with such technologies, specialize in nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) protection and NBC ventilation shelters.

They make make underground, self-contained, NBC-protected, portable shelters-designed to help Indian forces withstand a nuclear attack in a ‘near-miss’ situation-in large numbers. The shelters include a decontamination module and a utility module with living accommodation and facilities sustainable for ninety six hours. The shelter has been successfully evaluated for a blast of requisite yield under actual field conditions.

National Disaster Management Authority has formulated National Guidelines for Management of Nuclear and Radiological Emergencies. A model centre for medical response to CBRN casualties has been planned by NDMA in collaboration with Armed Forces Medical Services and DRDO. The model CBRN centre will be replicated in earmarked hospitals in other part of country for effective medical response to any nuclear eventuality.

It is also important to note that the Indian Navy has set up a NBC defence training facility to develop the skills of its personnel in fighting such attacks during conventional wars or terror strikes.