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Light, Portable Detector to Be Used by All U.S. Military Services 

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by Stephen Willingham 

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.

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