Saturday, October 27, 2007

NBC on the Rise?

NBC Counter Warfare has been scaled back to next to zero in Western countries since the end of the Cold War. Especially since shortly after the Gulf War, no one has been interested in it - threat dealt with, no more money. Even though OIF in 2003 again saw deployment of specialized units (both by the USA and Germany), existing equipment was deemed enough for that purpose. This is particularly interesting as NATO in 2002 committed its "Prague Initiatives for NBC Defense" which were supposed to increase capability in this field. The German take on the components of that NATO initiative pretty much was "we already have that, now shut up". Ok, not really, but it appears to have developed along those lines.

Germany has, since the end of the 90s, scaled down its active capabilities in that field effectively to only two battalions (from seven), two companies (mostly for training) and a few spread-out platoons.
Procurement of new decontamination equipment (TEP-90) has been postponed for the last 15 years now, with only some units equipped, still leaving the decon platoons with the good old Cold War equipment from the mid-70s that was already breaking down constantly when i worked with it 8 years ago. Same for the Fuchs/Fox, which is pretty much a 60s APC equipped with "cutting-edge" early 80s electronics (late 80s in the US Fox).

Now, suddenly, there seems to be interest again. Germany now holds yearly large-scale exercises (codenamed Golden Mask, with 800+ soldiers each time), but these are mostly intended to prepare the NATO Response Force CBRN Defence Battalions, and to train civil-military cooperation in that area a bit. And there's suddenly orders for equipment:

Rheinmetall reports an entire series of orders for their NBC detection equipment, to the tune of about €25 million. Sounds low - as military orders go - but for this money, Germany and the USA are upgrading 37 and 18 Fuchs/Fox mobile NC detectors respectively. For scale: 18 Fuchs are the entire recon component of a mixed NBC Battalion. Additionally, Germany has ordered a prototype for a bio-warfare analysis laboratory on a Yak armored truck (a Duro 3), something that Germany so far hasn't had in mobile form. Switzerland is buying prototypes for a future series of 12 mobile NBC analysis laboratories.
For the near future, Rheinmetall expects follow-up orders (with the prototypes, and more upgrades) for over €50 million.

Interesting that this suddenly pops up like this.

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