Combined Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defence Task Force
The Alliance’s multinational CBRN defence capability
NATO today faces a whole range of complex challenges and threats to its security. Present and future security challenges require the Alliance to be prepared to protect and defend against threats emanating from both state and non-state actors.
Current threats include the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their delivery systems. Rapid advances in biological science and technology also continue to increase the bio-terrorism threat against NATO forces and populations.
NATO’s Strategic Concept and the 2010 Lisbon Summit declaration confirmed the Alliance’s commitment to further develop its capacity to defend against the threat of CBRN1 weapons of mass destruction and protect its populations, territory and forces. The Combined Joint CBRN Defence Task Force is one of NATO’s key capabilities against CBRN events and supports the prevention of WMD proliferation.1. Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) material is used as an umbrella term for chemical, biological and radiological agents in any physical state and form, which can cause hazards to populations, territory and forces. It also refers to chemical weapons precursors and facilities, equipments or compounds, that can be used for development or deployment of WMD, CBRN weapons or CBRN devices.
The NATO Combined Joint CBRN Defence Task Force which consists of the CBRN Joint Assessment Team (JAT) and the CBRN Defence Battalion is a NATO body specifically trained and equipped to deal with CBRN events and/or attacks against NATO populations, territory or forces.
The Battalion and the CBRN JAT, created in 2003 and declared operational the following year, are a multinational, multifunctional team, able to deploy quickly to participate in the full spectrum of NATO operations.
The Battalion trains not only for armed conflicts, but also for deployment in crisis situations such as natural disasters and industrial accidents, including those involving hazardous material. To maintain the Task Force’s specialised skill, NATO’s Defence Against Terrorism Programme of Work (DAT POW) supports training exercises, such as Exercise Precise Response, hosted by Canada.
The Combined Joint CBRN Defence Task Force benefits from two of the capability commitments made by Allies at the 2002 Prague Summit: a Prototype Deployable Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) Analytical Laboratory and a Prototype NBC Event Response Team. These capabilities greatly enhance the Alliance’s defence against WMD.
The Battalion’s mission is to provide a rapidly deployable and credible CBRN defence capability in order to maintain NATO’s freedom of action and operational effectiveness in a CBRN threat environment.
The CBRN Battalion may be used to provide military assistance to civil authorities when authorised by the North Atlantic Council (NAC), the Alliance’s principal political decision-making body. For example, they played a key planning role during the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece, and the 2004 Istanbul Summit, where they supported CBRN-related contingency operations.
The CBRN Defence Battalion is capable of conducting the following tasks:
- CBRN reconnaissance and monitoring operations;
- Sampling and identification of biological, chemical, and radiological agents (SIBCRA);
- Biological detection and monitoring operations;
- Provision of CBRN assessments and advice to NATO commanders;
- CBRN hazard-management operations, such as decontamination.
Some 21 NATO countries contribute to the Combined Joint CBRN Defence Task Force on a voluntary basis. National commitments vary depending on the rotation, but there are usually between 8-10 countries involved per rotation.
In 2010, a non-NATO member country participated for the very first time. Ukraine contributed a decontamination platoon after having accomplished a NATO evaluation and certification process.
The CBRN Joint Assessment Team and CBRN Defence Battalion fall under the strategic command of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR). Operational control is delegated to a subordinate command as required.
Allied Command Transformation (ACT) provides evaluation standards, supports training and determines future NBC defence requirements and develops capabilities.
The Battalion-level organisation is composed of personnel from a number of NATO countries, on standby for 12-month rotations. Like the NATO Response Force (NRF), dedicated personnel are based in their countries, coming together for training and deployment.
A voluntary lead country is identified for each rotation. The lead country hosts the CBRN Joint Assessment Team and Battalion headquarters, responsible for command and control arrangements, maintaining standard operational procedures, sustaining readiness levels and for planning and conducting training. Contributing countries supply functional capabilities. This includes providing requisite troops, equipment and logistical support in accordance with mission requirements. The Defence Task Force consists of separate but complimentary components, which can be deployed in different stages and different combinations to suit each mission.
The components are:
- Joint Assessment Team. Specialists that provide CBRN-related advice and support;
- Headquarters Command and Control. Tailored command and control capabilities with a robust communications package to support assigned and attached organisations;
- Reconnaissance. Designed to provide route, area and point detection and identification of agents;
- Decontamination. Maintains the capability to decontaminate personnel and equipment;
- Deployable Analytical CBRN Laboratories. Designed to provide expert sampling, analysis, and scientific advice to support operational commanders.
The Battalion has a close relationship with the NATO Response Force (NRF). While it can be deployed independently, it is consistent and in complimentarity with the NRF. Its strength is included within the NRF force structure, and it can deploy within 5 to 30 days.
Following the agreement at the 2002 Prague Summit to enhance the Alliance’s defence capabilities against WMD, the NAC, in June 2003, decided to form a Multinational CBRN Defence Battalion and Joint Assessment Team.
The structure of the Battalion was established at a planning conference on 17-18 September 2003. On 28 October 2003, a force generation conference was held at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), Mons, Belgium. On 18-21 November 2003, a follow-up conference was held in the Czech Republic, the first volunteer lead country.
The Battalion reached its initial operational capability on 1 December 2003. Full operational capability was achieved on 28 June 2004 as declared by SACEUR at the Istanbul Summit, and responsibility was transferred to the strategic command of Allied Command Operations. From then on, the Battalion was included in the six-month rotation system of the NRF. The concept of operations and capability requirements of the Battalion are currently being reviewed to incorporate lessons learned from previous NRF cycles and operational deployments.