Country Profile Austria


By Colonel Friedrich Aflenzer, CBRND Officer- Force Development Division, Federal Ministry of Defence, Austria

The Austrian National Security Strategy (ANSS) considers defense policy as an integral part of comprehensive security provisions, which should be harmonized with Austria’s internal security policy as well as with foreign, and development policies.  Austria’s main defense policy objectives remain:

  • Provision of military capability to maintain Austria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity; and
  • Military assistance to the civil authorities in protecting Austria’s population and its constitutional institutions.

In addition, the ANSS states that the Austrian Armed Forces (AAF) should also be able to provide and sustain adequate contributions to international crisis response operations within the framework of multinational organizations, namely the UN, EU, NATO, and OSCE.  These operations should preferably be conducted under a UN mandate.

Austria sees NATO/EAPC and NATO/PfP as important fora for further strengthening transatlantic cooperation in the field of security policy and crisis management. 

The political guidance stated that the AAF face the following challenges:

  • operating in a changed and more complex security environment with growing terrorist and hybrid threats
  • supporting the civilian authorities and security organizations in managing an increasing irregular migration challenge;
  • responding to more frequent natural disasters due to climate change

The Federal President of Austria is the Commander-in-Chief of the AAF and executive power (command) is exercised by the Minister of Defence.  The National Security Council, chaired by the Federal Chancellor, advises the Government and individual ministers on fundamental matters of foreign, security, and defense policy.  The Chief of Defence directs the planning activities of the General Staff and acts as the principal military adviser to the Minister of Defence.

National civil emergency policies and plans address the full range of potential crises, including the effects of hybrid warfare, and utilize a whole‑of‑government approach to preparedness, response, and recovery.

The lead ministry for Civil Emergency Planning is the Ministry of Interior (MoI).  The MoI works in close coordination and cooperation with other key ministries such as the MoD, the Ministry for Europe Integration and Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, the Ministry for Transportation, Innovation and Technology, and the Ministry of Health and Women’s Affairs, the nine provinces, business ventures, companies, enterprises, as well as with the disaster relief organisations (e.g. the Red Cross, fire brigades, etc.). If required, the MoD and the AAF will support the civilian authorities in a crisis.  In the case of complex emergencies, the level and nature of support is in accordance with constitutional law and the appropriate defense act.

CBRN Defence

National structures, non-military and military organizations will provide CBRN defense capabilities for national CBRN event consequence management.  Fire brigades and the Police are able to detect gamma radiation, whereas fire brigades and the medical service have limited decontamination capabilities.  The military CBRN Defence units will provide CBRN Defence capabilities for deployed operations and assets, which may also be used in consequence management. 

Every soldier is equipped with individual CBRN protection and detection equipment.  Collective systems providing protection in CBRN hazardous environment are available in armored and protected wheeled vehicles. In addition, Austria has collective protection tents for up to 1,200 Persons.

The structure of the Austrian CBRN Defence Branch is as follows:

The CBRN Defence Centre is the think-tank of CBRN Defence in Austria and responsible for detailed capability development, the respective preparation and the overall branch training and comprises:one headquarters;

  • one training department;
  • one development department; and
  • one headquarters company. 
  • A sampling and identification of biological, chemical, and radioactive agents (SIBCRA) unit is attached to the Centre, as is the Austrian Forces Disaster Relief Unit (AFDRU).
  • The centre also commands one CBRN defence company, which includes: One CBRN reconnaissance platoon; one CBRN decontamination platoon; one urban search and rescue and military firefighting platoon; and one water purification platoon.

Each of the four land brigades commands one CBRN Defence Company, which has the same organisation and abilities as the CBRN defence company that is under the command of the CBRN Defence Centre

The AFDRU is a multifunctional company-sized unit, which is part of the reserve forces and may quickly be deployed in hazardous environment and CBRN event consequence management.

Four crash firefighting and CBRN Defence Platoons are attached to the Austrian Air Forces (one platoon at each military airbase).

The static military laboratories, which are part of the Armaments and Defence Technology Agency, include a chemical and a biological (biosafety level 3) laboratory.

The main capabilities of the CBRN Defence Companies are:

  • Early Warning and Reporting in accordance to NATO STANAG ATP-45
  • CBRN Reconnaissance and CBRN Detection
  • Decontamination of personal, heavy equipment (tanks, trucks, ..), light equipment, infrastructure and terrain
  • Urban Search and Rescue und Military Firefighting in contaminated area
  • Water Purification
  • Sampling and Identification of CBRN Agents (SIBCRA)
  • The main capabilities of the CBRN Defence Platoons at the Air Force are:
  • Early Warning and Reporting in accordance to NATO STANAG ATP-45
  • CBRN Detection
  • Decontamination of personal, heavy equipment (aircraft), light equipment, infrastructure and terrain (Airbase)
  • Military Firefighting in contaminated area
  • Crash Firefighting and Rescue after an aircraft crash

Austria has its own CBRN Warning and Reporting System. It is called ABC-IS and is fully interoperable because it works according the implemented NATO STANAG ATP-45. The Austrian CBRN Defence Units use for CBRN Reconnaissance the armoured vehicle DINGO. The Dingo is an armoured air-transportable armed MRAP wheeled vehicle for patrol and scouting from the German Krauss-Maffei-Wegmann Company. Moreover, it is equipped with modern Mass spectrometer with gas chromatograph, integrated GPS and substance database, photoionization detector, several chemo / electrical and infrared sensors, ionization mass spectrometer and a machine gun.

For chemical point detection, the Austrian Armed Forces use the Enhanced Chemical Agent Monitor (ECAM) from Smiths Detection Inc. and for radiological detection, the ASMG-90 (also called SSM 1). The Austrian Company Seibersdorf Laboratories have developed the ASMG 90 radiation protection-measuring instrument. It  facilitates dose and dose rate measurements from the range of natural background radiation up to very high exposures. With the counters, housed directly in the instrument, a display range of 0.01 μSv/h to 1 Sv/h is achieved using automatic range shifting. The Austrian Armed Forces as well as the Fire brigades and the Police use this radiological detector.

All Austrian decontamination systems are from the German Kärcher Futuretech Company. For the Light Decontamination Squad the Decon-Jet Trailer is used. Fort the Heavy Decontamination Squad Austria use three vehicles, a Personal Decontamination vehicle, a Heavy Equipment Decontamination vehicle and a Water Supply vehicle. The mobile Decontamination Squad is equipped with the new TEP-90 Decontamination system, which is borne on a MAN truck with crane. The TEP-90 is in Austria called “Mammoth”.

The Military Firefighting Units use special MAN trucks with a body specially developed for the Military.

For the Water Purification two different systems are established. On the one hand the reverse osmosis system WTC 4000 from Kärcher Company and on the other hand the chemical / physical system from Berkefeld Company.

Countering Improvised Explosive Devices:

Austria develops a range of counter-improvised explosive devices (C‑IED) capabilities to:

  • attack the IED network
  • defeat the device and
  • prepare the force 

Austria is addressing all of the sub-components of each of the three parts by a comprehensive mix of planning, educating personnel, training, testing, exercising, utilising existing equipment, and procuring further capabilities. 

Austria continues to introduce further mechanical mine clearing capabilities, continues to provide effective mine detection and non‑mechanical clearing and continues to provide EOD capabilities. 

Mine clearing capability, is progressing and a route clearance package has been procured.  A package for further engineer-related enhancements, including ground penetrating radar, mine rollers and high‑mobility engineer machines is planned. Other capabilities such as CBRN/EOD multi‑mission robots including detection and identification devices and enhanced IED disposal capability are planned for the near future to be capable for CBRN EOD/IEDD. 

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