Saab proposes full package of CBRN fighting means

The covid-19 pandemic situation emphasizes the need for solid CBRN plans and equipment. In Sweden, Saab has always focused on CBRN threats and how they evolve for many years. This led the company to develop innovative and complex solutions from equipment manufacturing to integration in order to become an international leader in the field. Therefore Saab likes to challenge the lines by stating to its customer that “the threat is real, are you ready?”
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Saab’s CBRN equipment mounted on Arquus Sherpa Lights (Picture source: artist rendering by Saab)

When speaking about the CBRN threat, any relevant way to address it starts with the early detection of its appearance, followed by the very accurate sampling and identification of this threat, then the reaction to immediately implement, all this in an extremely short period of time, as CBRN weapons can kill, sometimes very quickly.

Indeed, early warnings to units and personnel in the field are a key factor in limiting the effects of CBRN threats. With Saab’s coherent and integrated CBRN solutions, CBRN specialists and decision-makers will have efficient tools to detect and identify a wide range of threats and receive the support needed for providing fast and accurate early warning. « Integration » and « coherence » are key axes of Saab’s proposal. The company´s complete offering for the entire CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear) chain gives the whole picture of the situation. Its Automatic Warning and Reporting (AWR) system, sampling equipment and transport packaging provide the user with everything needed, from detection to identification.

The Army includes CBRN fighting units but their ways of operating and their equipment might not match some scenarios. Hence, Saab formulates various scenarios to introduce the relevance of the company’s reaction means made available to the authorities, both military and civilian.

A military scenario

Remember how much the first Gulf war in 1991 raised the fear of chemical agents expected to be used by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, as he had actually used them against his own population. This fear quickly initiated the development of appropriate fighting means by the Swedish army, of which Saab is a long-time supplier. Hence, the know-how gathered by Saab is firmly established to intervene on battlefields as well as in narrow streets of a village or confined spaces.

Let’s start with a military scenario focusing on a logistic problem (one could of course take many other ones into consideration, as battlefields are extremely diverse). A truck driving along a logistic route enters a contaminated area. It detects VX nerve gas using its onboard CBRN Automatic Warning and Reporting system. An automatic alert is sent out and a preliminary risk is established. Automatic alerts are instantly presented for all system installations in the sensor network before entering the risk area. Wanings and re^ports are exchanged with other coalition forces by way of the Command Area Detection (CAD). The truck driver turns on the onboard CBRN overpressuring system, sealing the vehicle and protecting the occupants from the threat. Units in the risk area put on their protective equipment and start the filter stations in their vehicles, as well as updating their dress code in order to protect themselves from a potential attack.

CBRN experts from theater-level connect and, to make it short, work to confirm the detection and start analyzing the nature of the threat with their Remote General Sampler and find alternate supply itineraries. A reduced risk area is calculated by the CBRN experts of the HQ, supported by readings from other chemical sensors of the area, as well as weather data. Deployed Area Detection (DAD) sensors are placed out to verify and monitor the new risk area. The truck is decontaminated before entering the base it was heading to. The CBRN sample is sealed and sent to the theater level for validation. A new supply road is ordered and the area remains monitored.

The key benefits of Saab's proposal are numerous:
* Adaptable and modular system that meets operational requirements
* A sensor network with distributed data enables early warnings which shortens time to action
* Combines sensor supervision with decision support and sensor fusion to minimize false alarms
* Remotely operated sensors from all places in the system reduces the need for CBRN experts
* Expandable with fixed, deployable, and mobile sensors and capabilities
* Automatic CBRN reporting and role-based information sharing
* Combination of systems together with a simulated training environment for CBRN substances
* AWR system that is deployed and in use with proven features and integrated CBRN capability

A civilian scenario

In the field of the civilian sector, chemical attacks already occurred, don’t you remember? The Tokyo subway sarin attack (Chikatetsu Sarin Jiken, "Subway Sarin Incident") was an act of domestic terrorism perpetrated on 20 March 1995, in Tokyo, by members of the cult movement Aum Shinrikyo. In five coordinated attacks, the perpetrators released sarin gas on three lines of the Tokyo Metro (then Teito Rapid Transit Authority) during rush hour, killing 14 people, injuring 5,500 people to varying degrees, and causing temporary vision problems for nearly 1,000 others. The attack was directed against trains passing through Kasumigaseki and Nagatachō, where the Diet (Japanese parliament) is headquartered in Tokyo.

The group, led by Shoko Asahara, had already carried out several assassinations and terrorist attacks using sarin, including the Matsumoto sarin attack nine months earlier. They had also produced several other nerve agents, including VX, and attempted to produce botulinum toxin, and had perpetrated several failed acts of bioterrorism. Asahara had been made aware of a police raid scheduled for March 22 and had planned the Tokyo subway attack in order to hinder police investigations into the cult and perhaps spark the apocalypse they believed in. The leader also wanted to start a Third World War.

In the raid following the attack, police arrested many senior members of the cult. Police activity continued throughout the summer, and over 200 members were arrested, including Asahara. Thirteen of the senior Aum management, including Asahara himself, were sentenced to death and later executed; many others were given prison sentences up to life. The attack remains the deadliest terrorist incident in Japan as defined by modern standards.

So, to expose Saab’s solution, let’s take again the example of a chemical attack carried in an underground station at a rushing hour. A terrorist (actually, more and more coordinated attacks involve several terrorists) carrying a chemical canister (a « dirty bomb ») enters the station, unnoticed in the crowd. Once on a platform, he discretely opens the canister and lays it down or throws it away before boarding the train, escaping the scene.

The station integrated sensors detect the threat right away and display what kind of substance the agent is. They transmit a signal to the Stationary Area Detection (SAD) system. An alarm is activated in the offsite control center. The operator contacts emergency services who coordinate a rescue and decontamination response. The relevant operator instructs the people to leave the platform. Wearing gas masks, police forces enter the underground station with handheld sensors while closing the station. In the control center, an operator receives on-screen information and step-by-step guidance. Alerts are automatically transmitted to the police, transport operators, and fire department. Rescue services arrive on the scene and make sure the station is contained.

The competent transport operator simultaneously stops air ventilation and stops inbound and outbound trains to stop the airflow and reduce the spread of the threat. He monitors the situation thanks to charge-coupled device (CDD) cameras.

The (potentially) contaminated passengers are taken in charge by the relevant rescue services, while also using Saab’s sampling and identification tools of the substance. A decontamination operation can start.

Saab proposes solutions

Saab’s does not manufacture vehicles specifically dedicated to CBRN fighting, as they are (very) expensive. Instead, the company proposes specialized kits to be fitted on existing civilian or military vehicles, including robotic/unmanned ones made EMC resistant, a much more affordable solution.

The sensors, sampling instruments, monitoring equipment, and treatment needed at all stages of the fighting against CBRN threats have been fully developed by the company, ensuring coherence at all stages of the operations required, including a communication package adapted to a wide range of scenarios enlighting integration and coherence of the proposed software, vehicle kits, and training. This integration-coherence asset makes Saab’s proposal solution cheaper than a combination of solutions proposed by various suppliers.

Training is an important component of Saab’s proposal. Realistic live exercises with the emission of real CBRN substances and agents are often expensive, complex, and environmentally hazardous but the need of conducting such exercises cannot be avoided. Saab’s method addresses this concern by proposing a realistic training package that combines both low-cost and relevant responses to collective and joint operation needs, both in military and civilian situations.

To match the state-of-the-art technical tools available, Saab even integrates the use of interconnected smartphones using 4G/5G among the training tools, a cheap solution as it obviously appears. Realism, relevance, efficiency, ease of use, and low cost form a guideline of Saab’s strategy.

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Saab’s CBRN basic reconnaissance kit mounted on an Arquus Sherpa Light (Picture source: artist rendering by Saab)

Saab to work with French partners

Saab’s know-how enabled the company to identify several French companies whose proven products ideally fit in its CBRN package, hence targeting both French and export markets.

So, the present details submitted by Saab enable the relevant stakeholders to answer the initial question: « The CBRN threat is real. Are you prepared? »

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Saab’s CBRN equipment mounted on Arquus Sherpa Light. Inside view. (Picture source: artist rendering by Saab)