‘The Importance of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Simulation Training’

1This article examines the importance of providing realistic simulation when training personnel to use CBRN detection and monitoring devices. Furthermore, it seeks to highlight how all levels of end users from operators to command level can be tested, evaluated and benefit as a result of excellent simulation effects.

Delivering training to the military and first responders in the 21st century has become more challenging because the end user generation of trainees are used to enjoying sophisticated software games in their off duty and leisure times, and come to expect the same level of sophistication in their military and emergency service training. This has placed an ever increasing burden on Ministry of Defences (MoD's) and Other Government Agencies (OGA's) training establishments to meet these expectations.

The software gaming industry realised the potential to utilise their expertise in providing realistic training simulators for military and First Responder / “blue light” service requirements. These range from firearms training where the simulators can be programmed to shoot back, to scenario simulators that create situations to test command and control Techniques, Tactics and Procedural (TTP) decision making. One of the more challenging scenarios to simulate is that of a CBRN hazard release, because in the majority of cases the real event creates sensory rather than visual effects and therefore the simulation has to be able to replicate the sensory perception through a visual effect.

Realism Driven by Technology

Where CBRN simulation realism is concerned the main driver is to be able to replicate the ability to detect and monitor a near invisible or invisible hazard as it moves through the air or contaminates equipment, infrastructure or terrain. This led in the first instance to using wet simulants as interferant's against operational CBRN detectors and monitors. However, this proved ineffectual as the majority of wet simulants can only be used outside, are difficult to dispense and control in open air, and trainees can see the instructors releasing the substances making for an unrealistic training setting. Furthermore, this method meant that instructors could not guarantee replication of a particular CBRN scenario due to the unreliability of the wind, temperature and humidity and correct use of the detection devices. Therefore gauging skill competence in the use of operational detectors and monitors across multiple groups of trainees was impossible, not to mention the wear and possible damage to operational equipment and environmental damage through saturation of training areas; or the difficulty creating indoor scenarios with chemical simulants.


This training capability gap was recognised by UK company (Argon Electronics) who have spent over 23 years developing and producing realistic CBRN simulators to become a recognised world leader in this technology. Their approach accurately replicates how detection and monitoring devices react when confronted by a range of CBRN agents, taking into account the volatility of the agents, the prevailing meteorological conditions and the tactics and techniques used to detect differing agents.


Additionally, the simulators have an in built after action review (AAR) facility allowing interrogation of the simulator after use.  This provides trainees with a 'Disney® type' level of realism when using exact replicas of their operational equipment and the instructors a method of replicating the same scenario time after time in order to determine the correct use of TTP's by the trainees while incorporating an element of competitiveness between students and units.

Exploitation and Expansion of the Simulation Technology

4Training and evaluation of how trainees use detection and monitoring devices is a critical part of the training process because if not carried out correctly in a real-time setting, the operational impact can be substantial, forcing troops and first responders to don protective equipment causing unnecessary degradation and loss of operational effectiveness. However, detection and monitoring are only the tip of the iceberg in understanding the CBRN hazard threat landscape at the strategic and operational levels of command. Argon recognised this and have developed in concert with their suite of detection simulators a large area instrumented simulation system (PlumeSIM) that can create CBRN hazard scenarios on a mapping template which interacts with simulated detection and monitoring devices. The result is that not only can realistic scenarios be created for the operator within the training area , the information can be relayed to command and control centres thus allowing commanders to be trained, tested and evaluated in interpreting the information and the decision making process.


The Cost of Individual and Collective Training

Being able to realistically and effectively train and evaluate an 'End to End' process at the tactical and command level is critical in assessing the operational competence of a force confronted by a CBRN hostile hazard environment. In these times of a growing reliance on the use of Toxic Industrial Materials (TIM's) in manufacturing industries and use of CBRN substances for terrorism, the likelihood of the military and emergency services having to operate in a toxic / radiological hazard environment is increasing. Therefore given current governments across the world face budgetary pressures on military and emergency services spending, all aspects of delivering capability have come under scrutiny, training budgets being no exception.  Being able to train realistically and collectively is cost effective, not just in monetary terms but also in operational terms as it allows the training time to be maximised both in the field and classroom environment and avoids unnecessary expensive damage to operational equipment. Having the ability to be able to objectively define areas of weakness and strengths in operational CBRN response capability allows trainers to specifically target the areas of weakness and in doing so, raise the overall standard across the CBRN response community

David Butler BEM, a former military officer at the UK Defence CBRN Centre Winterbourne Gunner and now MD of CBRN Solutions UK Ltd, has attained a wealth of first-hand experience, expertise and knowledge in dealing with real-time CBR events around the world. This has allowed him to assess the merits of different methods of delivering CBRN simulation in training.

Images by kind permission of Argon Electronics (UK) Ltd.

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