DUGWAY PROVING GROUND, Utah -- When testing of the Next Generation Chemical Detectors begins at Dugway in early 2018, scientists will use gloveboxes and a moveable chamber as new and innovative as the detectors they test.
Testing will be at various facilities, but much of it will be conducted within newly constructed gloveboxes and a moveable chamber. At least four versions of the NGCD will be tested at Dugway: a man portable, aerosol and vapor detector; man-portable surface detector; a two-man portable NGCD sensitive to very low levels and a wearable NGCD that warns of chemical warfare agents, toxic industrial chemicals and non-traditional agents.
The NGCD testing marks the first use of the new gloveboxes and the moveable Secondary Containment Module chamber in testing at Dugway. Testing will be more efficient, "Making it more rapid to get our answers, to get our data," Greg Dahlstrom, a Dugway mechanical engineer.
Acquiring accurate test data quicker benefits the Warfighter. Rapid, accurate data hastens decisions to adopt, modify or abandon a proposed item, method or modification. Whether adopted or abandoned, the Warfighter benefits: It arrives in his hand sooner, or funds are not wasted on dubious research and may better spent on more promising systems.
The new testing gloveboxes were recently made by machinists at the Dugway Metal Shop, and Tooele (Utah) Army Depot, for a little more than $1 million. The glove boxes are designed to fit to each other to create a series of stations. Via interior doors, test items are moved from one glove box to another for contamination, measurement, observation, decontamination, etc. End caps, which have built-in air filtration, allow the introduction or retrieval of items from outside the glove boxes.
Each glovebox has banks of overhead lights, large windows and portholes for sealed, permanent gloves, allowing operators to manipulate test items and equipment. Inside the linked gloveboxes, humidity and temperature may be regulated from 120 degrees to -25 Fahrenheit to replicate most climates for authentic challenging.
Three gloveboxes and two endcaps are within each of the two trailer-sized mobile chambers -- 36-foot-long Secondary Containment Modules. In turn, the two modules are within the massive Multipurpose Chamber (50 feet long and wide, with 30-foot walls).
Redundant safety and air filtration prevent deadly chemicals from escaping during testing: each glovebox series is sealed and air filtered, and secured within the sealed and filtered SCMs. The two SCMs are within a large, sealed and filtered Multipurpose Chamber 50 feet long and wide, and 30 feet high. The effect is triple redundant safety.
Each 36-foot SCM may be moved outside the large chamber, to ease setup for the next test, allowing ample room for forklifts, cargo, technicians and specialized test fixtures.
"The Secondary Containment Modules are made to be mobile, so that on a rapid reaction test, we could bring these out and bring in new ones that had different fixtures set up inside them. It's mainly for efficiency," Dahlstrom said.
More than 10 years ago, Dugway Proving Ground tested the wearable Joint Chemical Agent Detector (JCAD) and the mounted Joint Services Lightweight Chemical Agent Detector (JSLSCAD) that has become commonplace among all services. Next Generation Chemical Detector testing will begin 100 years after World War I ended, the first conflict with the widespread use of modern chemical weapons.
"Next Generation Chemical Detector testing is scheduled to begin in January 2018 and, if the previous JCAD test is any indication, it will probably be three years of testing," Dahlstrom said.
One hundred years ago, the world recoiled at the horrors of chemical weapons. It still recoils at recent images in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. It would be ironic if the weapon once called, "the most efficient killer" was rendered powerless by more efficient testing.