A prototype biological agent detector is undergoing a Live Agent Aerosol Test at the Biological Testing Division, a tenant unit at Dugway Proving Ground. This marks the first live bio agent testing at DPG since 2015, when the Utah test facility’s command was transferred from DPG to the Army’s Chemical Biological Center in Maryland.
The new detector is the Joint Biological Tactical Detection System (JBTDS), expected to replace the much larger and heavier Joint Biological Point Detection System (JBPDS), typically carried on vehicles and ships and currently fielded.
The JBTDS is light and small enough to be carried in a backpack, and requires a smaller sample to identify a biological threat. It employs Polymerase Chain Reaction, which rapidly makes millions of copies of a specific DNA, increasing it to a large enough amount to study in detail for identification.
Current testing is with a variety of biological agents typically used as weapons.
“We’re testing with the most-used biological agents that I’ve seen since I began working on Dugway in 2007,” said Jon Hogan, physical scientist and test officer.
The detector is capable of identifying specific, commonly used biological threats and raising an alarm. The operator then retrieves a dry filter from the JBTDS’ collector, then extracts a sample from the detector’s identifier using liquid. The remaining liquid sample is taken to a lab to verify the detector’s identification.
Testing with unnamed live biological agents is conducted with three JBTDS in a sealed chamber within a lab with negative-pressure air that is filtered. The portion of the building with labs is itself under negative pressure and filtered, to meet industry and Department of Defense requirements.
Current testing is expected to continue into December. Other subtests, to determine the lower limit of JBTDS’ detection capabilities, are expected to run into spring, 2022.