Innovations in CBRNe and EOD: Meeting the Needs of Responders


By Cpt. Christian Resch, Research and Development Manager CBRN Defence and C-IED, Federal Ministry of Defence Austria

The technological change of the last decades not only has a fundamental social Led change, but also the armed forces face new challenges. New forms of conflict and “hybrid” threat images require comprehensive solutions and make new demands on capability development of armed forces to continue in the future as a “strategic action reserve”.

Defense research follows the requirements of military capability as a function of military and security competence. It establishes new forms of cooperation for innovation and technology development, both at European and national level. To ensure military innovation capability of the Austrian Armed Forces the defense research program “FORTE” has been established.

Defense Research in Austria – CBRN & C-IED a top priority

FORTE will support EUR 5 million worth of scientific and technological military research to develop capabilities for future threat scenarios and to enhance the capacity of the armed forces to innovate. The Austrian Armed Forces are responsible as a user and expert for the content and thematic design of the funding program. Key research areas are “Cyber Defense”, “Information Management Systems”, “CBRN Defense”, “Counter IED”, “Critical Infrastructure Protection against UAVs” and “Military Robotics”, which follows the strategic direction and necessary skills of modern, innovative and future-oriented armed forces.

However, FORTE does not only make a significant contribution to the military capability development, but also positions the Federal Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces as partners of the economy and industry for research, innovation and technology development. As a research funding program, FORTE therefore also aims to set new priorities in Austria’s research landscape and, subsequently, to strengthen its national competencies in such a way that national research institutions and companies are also competitive in an international environment.

European Defense Fund – € 13 billion for the defense sector

At European level, an even higher potential opens up. For the first time in EU history, the European Defense Fund (EDF) will have a significant budget from the EU common budget for defense and the European defense industrial technology base from 2021: € 4.1 billion for research (with 100% financing) and € 8.9 billion for technological development with a promotion between 20% and 100%, depending on the development phase and technological readiness. The Fund will place the EU among the top 4 defense research and technology investors in Europe, and act as a catalyst for an innovative and competitive industrial and scientific base.

The main features of the European Defense Fund are:

  • Financing of projects which help make the EU safer and which correspond to priorities agreed by Member States within the framework of the Common Security and Defence Policy and other regional and international organisations such as NATO
  • Only collaborative projects involving at least 3 participants from 3 Member States are eligible
  • The EU will only co-fund the development of common prototypes where Member States commit to buying the final product
  • Cross-border participation of SMEs and mid-caps is strongly incentivized by providing higher financing rates, favoring projects by consortia which include SMEs and, if necessary, launching dedicated calls for proposals
  • Targeting breakthrough innovation, with 5% of the funds dedicated to disruptive technology and innovative equipment allowing the EU to boost its long-term technological leadership
  • Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) projects may, if eligible, receive an additional co-financing bonus of 10%, but funding is not automatic

The need for Innovation in the CBRNe domain

CBRN Defense and countering improvised explosives devices are a key capability in the force protection of Armed Forces. IEDs have been an effective weapon for years, with operational and sometimes strategic implications. They are currently the biggest threat to soldiers in action. This trend will continue due to the spread of modern military technology and the increase in remote-controlled devices. In armed conflicts and terrorist attacks, IEDs and CBRN threats of various kinds are used worldwide. New technological developments also benefit the opponent in order to improve their quality. For this reason, continuous development in this area should be sought by exploiting all possible technologies.

The use of IED is not subject to any fixed patterns. They can be used almost anytime, anywhere with different techniques and tactics. In advance, an attacker observes the intended targets, evaluates the behavior, the tactics and combat techniques used, and continuously adjusts his tactics to protect the enemy and the current situation. A specific challenge is the combination of IED with CBRN substances.

Technological developments, proliferation and asymmetry in armed conflicts suggest that CBRN threats will at least increase in probability. The threat, therefore, shifts from the nuclear to chemical, biological and radiological scenarios. In the future, it can be expected that biological, chemical and radiological weapons will also be used in asymmetric conflicts and, as a result, the level of threat will increase. In order to ensure the success of security while still guaranteeing the protection of deployed soldiers, future-oriented research and development, involving all national competencies and capacities, is indispensable.

Meeting the Needs of Responders in CBRNe research and technology

Making the best use of innovative technologies implies the identification of research fields and knowledge gaps in close cooperation with users. In line with the overarching strategic research agenda of the European Defense Agency, Austria is conducting science and research activities in the following areas:

Force Protection

  • Expansion of personal protective equipment, with integrated, energy efficient, non-invasive biomonitoring and without compromising mobility or performance on the battlefield
  • Optimization of personal protective equipment by increasing protection and wearing comfort, while maintaining current performance parameters
  • Developments of radiation exposure reduction materials that can be used in the form of personal protective equipment
  • Development of large-scale materials for collective protection against chemical agents with retention capacity to prevent contamination transfer
  • Development of alternative decontamination options with significantly reduced logistical effort for sensitive surface applications

Remote Sensing

  • Development of (semi) autonomous systems for unmanned sampling (soil, air, ammunition fragments, forensics)
  • Sensors, with the ability to detect, identify and predict the position of improvised explosive devices in complex and overloaded environments

Modeling and Simulation

  • Advanced modeling and simulation for tracing atmospheric spread of CBRN substances for the purpose of the source term calculation (estimate / quantification of the release quantity, location of the source of the threat)

About the Author

Captain Christian Resch is a CBRN Defense Officer and working as the Research and Development Manager in the Austrian Federal Ministry of Defense. In the Science, Research and Development Division he is responsible for all activities related to CBRN and C-IED. He has been working for over ten years in operational service of the Austrian Armed Forces as a Commander. Captain Resch holds a Master’s degree in military leadership and in process and plant safety, where he is currently writing his PhD on critical chemical infrastructures. He is also Managing Director of DCNA (Disaster Competence Network Austria), a science and research cluster in the field of security and disaster research.

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