NBC Weapons: CBRN In Syria

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December 6, 2018: In late 2018 Russia, sent its latest CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear) detection vehicle into a combat zone for the first time. This RKhM-6 CBRN is a modified version of the 14 ton BTR-80 8x8 wheeled armored vehicle. The turret is augmented with a similar structure containing sensors for various toxic materials. There is also a thermal imaging sensor. The RKhM-6 entered service in 2012 and replaced the Cold War era RKhM-4, which was also based on the BTR-80. The first Russian CBRN vehicles appeared in the 1960s and were based on the BRDM, a 4x4 wheeled armored vehicle introduced in the early 1960s. The Cold War era CBRN vehicles were often variants of the light armored vehicles used for reconnaissance and were meant to be a part of the reconnaissance mission. Chemical weapons have been used numerous times in Syria and there are conflicting accusations about who is responsible. Israel has a few tracked armored engineering vehicles modified for CBRN use as well as CBRN disposal in a combat situation.

CBRN vehicles were more common during the Cold War but many were retired in the 1990s as the risk of nuclear war in Europe diminished. Upgrades also became less frequent after 1990. At the end of the Cold War the most popular CBRN vehicles in NATO were based on the 18 ton German Fuchs 6x6 wheeled armored vehicle. Another German vehicle used for CBRN work was the Dingo, a 12-ton 4x4 armored truck. In 2006 a CBRN version of the Swiss Piranha IIIC 8x8 appeared. Piranha is the vehicle the American Stryker is based on and in 2010 the U.S. introduced the M1135 Stryker CBRN vehicle, which replaces the Fox 93 from the late 1980s. The Fox 93 was basically the German Fuchs CBRN vehicle with American modifications. Before Fox 93 American CBRN vehicles were based on tracked APC (armored personnel carriers) but by the end of the Cold War in the 1980s, it was generally recognized that wheeled armored vehicles were better suited for this work.

The big changes in CBRN were not the vehicles but the sensors. These became lighter, faster and more accurate since the 1960s. Many of these sensors were distributed to troops and could be carried by infantry or any vehicle (including helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft). CBRN vehicles were still useful, especially for conducting reconnaissance in a combat zone where there was a likelihood that chemical or biological weapons, or radiation, might be encountered. But because NBC (Nuclear, Biological and Chemical) weapons could be delivered by missiles or aerial bombs areas behind the combat zone were also in need of CBRN detectors, but not the armored vehicles that carried the sensors in the combat zone. The CBRN have another advantage in that they are sealed with an overpressure system (air pressure is higher inside than outside, so noxious substances won’t seep in. Non-combat vehicles can be built with overpressure and are for civilian use. But for the military, the CVRN version of a wheeled armored vehicle can do it all.

 


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