Next-generation chemical detector to provide enhanced CBRN defense to warfighter

By Kelly Burkhalter, JPEO-CBRND Public AffairsJune 5, 2024

Aerosol Vapor Chemical Agent Detector (AVCAD) fielding
Warfighter in MOPP gear using the AVCAD system for CBRN chemical threat detection, Dugway Proving Ground, March 2024. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army Photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Quickly detecting the presence of chemical agents is critical to joint force survivability. Knowing that danger is near allows commanders to gain useful information and make decisions that keep warfighters safe. The Aerosol Vapor Chemical Agent Detector, or AVCAD, led by the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense in partnership with Smiths Detection, is a next generation chemical detector that will alert warfighters of the presence of a chemical agent.

The AVCAD is designed to detect, identify, alarm and report threat vapors and aerosols. AVCAD gives the joint force increased capability to defend against chemical agent exposure as its able to detect both traditional and non-traditional agents. It is a mass spectrometer-based system that works by pulling in air for vapor and aerosol sample preconcentration and heating until it is analyzed for detection and identification results, which are then displayed to the operator.

AVCAD is the first autonomous monitoring capability for aerosol chemical detection across the services — U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, National Guard Bureau and Coast Guard. It also provides wireless connectivity employing integrated sensor architecture communication protocols. The autonomous nature allows it to be integrated with other equipment and is sensitive enough to detect low hazard levels, analyze liquid and solid aerosols and vapors of both traditional and non-traditional types of chemical warfare agents.

Aerosol Vapor and Chemical Agent Detector (AVCAD)
The Aerosol Vapor and Chemical Agent Detector (AVCAD) system during a warfighter touchpoint and new equipment training to CBRN warfighters in March of 2024 at Dugway Proving Ground. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army Photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

“AVCAD comes with a lot of complexities that make this an equipment improvement for our warfighters. It can detect low levels of liquid, solid and aerosol chemical warfare agents. It’s highly sensitive and provides a remote alarm warning and reporting capability,” said Lt. Col. Brent Wilson, joint product manager for chemical detection and mobile analytics.

Integrated layered CBRN defense is one of JPEO-CBRND’s top priorities. This means ensuring that the best CBRN tools and equipment can work together with non-CBRN equipment to provide the joint force with the most protection and information to ensure safety. It also means that CBRN equipment should be effective across multiple domains such as land, sea, air, ground and space. AVCAD checks these boxes as it will be fielded to most services, and it can be man portable, mounted to a vehicle or integrated into a naval vessel.

AVCAD is being integrated into the JPEO-CBRND’s CBRN command and control program test bed to assess use cases for controlling an AVCAD and transmission results to a command and control enabled node. The goal is to deliver chemical agent data directly to multiple decision makers in a timely fashion. AVCAD will integrate on the nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological vehicle sensor suite upgrade. This operational flexibility allows the AVCAD to be integrated across technologies to deliver information across various domains.

Aerosol Vapor Chemical Agent Detector (AVCAD)
Two soldiers in MOPP gear learn how to use the AVCAD chemical detector. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army Photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

AVCAD achieved milestone C in May 2023. Reaching milestone C is an accomplishment that means the program has met all criteria necessary to move into the production and deployment phase. This means that the program and product work the way it is intended and can prepare for fielding to the joint force during its initial operational capability phase.

To get to Milestone C, the AVCAD completed rigorous military testing in partnership with the Aberdeen Test Center, Dugway Proving Ground, and Chemical Biological Center to ensure the equipment was operational, and able to withstand the rigors of the military environment. The project team also worked directly with the user community to gain their feedback on AVCAD.

“Working directly with the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen were a critical part of our [development] process. Our users need to be able to try the AVCAD in relevant environments and give us feedback that we can implement to ensure that what is fielded is what they need,” said Carolyn Matz, program officer, advanced chemical agent detection.

Aerosol Vapor Chemical Agent Detector (AVCAD)
Warfighter trains on the AVCAD system at a new equipment training and fielding at Dugway Proving Ground, March 2024.
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army Photo)

Since achieving milestone C, the team is continuing to host warfighter touchpoint events to gain insights from the user community. Most recently the team hosted a touchpoint with the National Guard Bureau with more events to come in 2024.

“The joint force needs this capability. Smaller, remote, modular systems provide the warfighter information to alert them to exposures in real time, enabling enough time to make life saving decisions,” Wilson said. “We are always chasing time in the world of countering weapons of mass defense, so anything that helps give our forces more time to act and to take a well thought out action, is valuable.”

AVCAD is on track to reach full rate production approval in fiscal year 2025 and initial operational capability by fiscal year 2027. The project team will continue to work with the user community to refine AVCAD and prepare for fielding to the services.