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Warfighters Test Drive Tomorrow's Technology

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When supercars are produced they aren't introduced to the racing circuit right away. Designing high-performance equipment requires careful testing and evaluation. Test drivers provide feedback, which is incorporated in painstaking adjustments.

Warfighter protective technologies requires this diligence as well. To evaluate new chem/ bio defense tools, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency's Chemical and Biological Technologies Department recently hosted the first large-scale event specifically designed to assess technologies in near operational conditions. Warfighters those who will be relying on the equipment in the field were on hand to provide real-time feedback in order to ensure they are armed with effective protective equipment.

The Chemical and Biological Operations Analysis (CBOA) event was held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. It provided a unique opportunity for industry, academia and government laboratories who possess chem/bio technology capabilities. Participating technologies at CBOA ranged from experimental models all the way to system prototypes.

Twenty-seven officers and soldiers from the Chemical Response Team (CRT) and the 11th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) Company of the 110th CBRN Battalion, along with 10 U.S. Customs and Border Protection Special Response Team (SRT) officers and agents supported the analysis of 29 participating technologies.

Additionally, members of the chem/bio defense community, including DTRA CB science and technology managers (STMs), participated and observed the CBOA exercise event first-hand. For many STMs, it was an opportunity to see their technology in the field for the first time.

The selected participants provided their technologies to the warfighter after a brief training session. The warfighters and technologies were then integrated into real-world training scenarios. The CBOA incorporated live scenarios and red teaming techniques, in combination with academic and engineering assessment methodologies, to evaluate utility and identify potential vulnerabilities. Data collected included performance degradation in contested environments, interoperability, adaptability and training/ease of use through live and virtual experiment venues designed to improve uniformed personnel maneuverability and survivability.

The purpose of this event is to accelerate the delivery of capabilities to the warfighter. Feedback gathered at CBOA will inform improvements to participant technologies while providing DTRA CB with a venue to identify new ideas. Feedback was often instantaneous and participants were able to make on-the-spot adjustments of their technologies between scenarios.

One example is a physiological status monitor that allows a team leader to monitor nearby groups for heat strain on a mobile phone. An SRT leader found that keeping the phone in a pocket required them to pull the phone out to check on a team while in a simulated operation. This was distracting for the operation. That night, the developers worked out several solutions for mounting the phone on the forearm for the next day's missions. Initially, medical tape was used, but the SRT suggested parachute cord tied around the phone's case loop. Before the operation began, the phone was mounted and tested using the phone on the forearm, allowing a quick glance to the arm for team status.

The CBOA event was designed to simplify collaboration among technology developers by enabling participants to work side by side. RedXDefense, providers of the XCAT Handheld Automated Detection Device, used for automated, one-step detection of narcotics, explosives, and gunshot residue, were able to integrate its technology with the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center's Leaderboard and the Android Tactical Assault Kit (ATAK). For the first time, the developers were able to see real-time detection results from the field displayed on Leaderboard, an aggregated display of all ATAK users in the demonstration.

The CBOA also provided participants with the opportunity to have the Joint Vulnerability Assessment Branch (JVAB) conduct computer network security and radio frequency vulnerability assessments on their technologies using adversarial tools. Eleven technologies chose to subject their technologies to the JVAB's assessment and received feedback on how to reduce their vulnerability and ultimately field a more secure product.

Additionally, each technology received a U.S. Military Academy (USMA) Warfighter Technology Trade-space Methodology assessment, which focused on the technology's capabilities, logistics, usability and training aspects. The USMA also conducted a more focused user hierarchical task analysis that measures how easy it is to understand and use the technology.

Warfighters will need to rely on dependable gear and protective garments to fulfill their mission, despite potential chemical and biological threats. Events such as DTRA CB's CBOA help ensure that they have access to effective, life-saving equipment when they need it most.

DTRA CB POC: Markham Smith;


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