DUGWAY PROVING GROUND, Utah -- Dugway personnel are testing a system whose liquid solution changes color when encountering chemical agent, to ensure that its applicator works as required and won't compromise Soldiers' safety in contaminated areas.

Dugway is testing prototype applicators, hand-built by U.S. Army Pine Bluff Arsenal in Arkansas, for the Contamination Indicator Decontamination Assurance System (CIDAS). The system uses Agentase Disclosure Spray solution, containing an enzyme that indicates the presence of chemical agents by changing color.

Unlike the prototype applicators, CIDAS and Agentase solution are established technologies according to Bill Davis, test officer with Dugway's Chemical Test Division.

The applicators are backpack-mounted with handheld spray nozzles. A small-scale applicator is also available. Each CIDAS kit includes the applicator and powder that, added to water, create the solution that changes color when contacting nerve agent. If testing approves the prototype applicators, Soldiers would have a simple, portable means to reveal nerve agent contamination before and after decontamination, Davis noted.

Testing began April 11, when prototype applicators sprayed the solution on nine vehicles at Dugway's 200-foot-long and 100-foot-wide Decontamination Facility. Each vehicle will be sprayed twice daily, for 28 total days, to determine the CIDAS' and applicators' longevity in realistic conditions.

Although the lengthy vehicle test will employ the color-changing solution, no simulated agent is on the vehicles to promote color change, Davis said. The test's purpose is long-term operation of the CIDAS and its applicators, not the solution's indicator function, Davis noted.

"They want to know when the system can be expected to fail, so they can provide a logistics train for spare parts and maintenance," Davis said.

The CIDAS test is sponsored by the Department of Defense's Joint Project Manager for Protection. The CIDAS kit is produced by FLIR of Wilsonville, Ore.

Other Dugway facilities will test the CIDAS and indicator solution. Some tests will use actual agent in indoor chambers that have multiple air filtration and safety features. Outdoor testing with agent is banned by international treaties.

At the Combined Chemical Test Facility (CCTF) a metal replica of a human bust, SMARTMAN, will wear gas masks and respirators contaminated with chemical agent. CIDAS indicator solution will be sprayed on the contaminated mask.

"If you apply the indicator, does it facilitate or accelerate permeation of the mask by chemical agent?" Davis said, noting the test's purpose.

In another CCTF lab, fabrics from chemical-resistant protective clothing will be contaminated with agent in a chamber, then CIDAS solution applied to learn if it affects the fabric's protection.

Carr Facility will challenge the CIDAS backpack and handheld sprayers with sand, humidity and temperature extremes, replicating operational environments. No agent will be used.

Dugway's wide-ranging capabilities and varied expertise in chemical and biological defense provide one-stop testing for a system that may someday see worldwide use to visually affirm the presence of chemical agent on surfaces.