The Department of Defense released today an updated version of its Fox NBC Reconnaissance Vehicle information paper. The paper provides details on the capabilities and limitations of the Fox Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Reconnaissance vehicle, during the Gulf War. At the time of the Gulf War, the Fox vehicle was the most sophisticated, technically complex piece of chemical warfare agent detection equipment to be used by U.S. forces.
Since the information paper was published in 1997, the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses, Medical Readiness and Military Deployments, has received new information from other investigations involving Fox vehicles that updates some of the material presented in the original paper. The updated version contains more in-depth technical information obtained from Fox vehicle experts and better explains the use of Fox vehicles during the Gulf War.
The heart of the Fox system is the MM-1 Mobile Mass Spectrometer. It analyzes air or ground samples for the possible presence of liquid chemical warfare agents by drawing air through the air/surface sampler positioned on the outside of the vehicle to the MM-1 detection unit, which then analyzes the substance and displays the results on a video screen. The Fox vehicle surveys for chemical warfare agents on a target list most likely to be present given the threat. This target list usually included sarin, soman, mustard, lewisite, cyclosarin, and fats, oils and wax to name a few. An alert during an initial survey is a warning and indicates the need for additional testing known as a spectrum analysis. The more time-consuming - yet more accurate - spectrum analysis is necessary to determine possible chemical warfare agent presence with a higher degree of confidence.
Military leaders and MM-1 operators recognized that the Fox improved the ability to protect U.S. personnel from the possible presence of chemical warfare agents during the Gulf War. The critical need for better detection capability during the U.S. forces build-up resulted in accelerated fielding of the Fox vehicle and a short training period so most troops who used the Fox did not understand many of the Fox's capabilities and limitations. Further, operating tactics of employment sometimes did not allow the Fox to stop to conduct the more detailed spectrum analysis. U.S soldiers and Marines used the Fox as a mobile vapor detector to search for the possible presence of chemical warfare agents during the Gulf War.
Although the Fox can detect chemical warfare agent vapors in the air, it was designed primarily to detect liquid chemical warfare agents on the ground. Pre-war testing and evaluation indicated that when used as a mobile vapor detector, the Fox systems might not indicate the presence of certain chemical warfare agents in time to prevent casualties among unprotected servicemembers. Contaminants, such as oil well fire smoke, hindered the MM-1's detection capabilities. Limited MM-1 operator training restricted their ability to analyze detections.
Since the Gulf War, the United States has improved Fox doctrine, training and equipment. This includes the addition of the Remote Sensing Chemical Agent Alarm - the M21 - a device that alarms to the presence of nerve and blister agent vapors from outside the boundaries of ground contamination. Training for Fox crews has also been increased. The Army now provides more than 38 hours of MM-1 training and a certifying exam to operators. Procedures for the retention and archiving of the printed tapes are now in place. The Army is continuing to make improvements in doctrine, training and equipment to further increase detection capabilities for potential future conflicts. With these improvements and better understanding by Defense Department leaders of its role in the Gulf War, the Fox vehicle should continue to enhance U.S. force protection from emerging threats in the 21st century.
Information papers are reports of what DoD knows today about military equipment and/or procedures used in the 1990-1991 Gulf War. They are part of the Defense Department's effort to inform the public of its investigations into the nature and possible causes for the illnesses experienced by some Gulf War veterans.
This paper and all other reports published by the special assistant's office are posted on the GulfLINK Web site at http://www.gulflink.osd.mil/fox_vehicle_ii .