Combined Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defence Task Force
NATO today faces a whole range of complex challenges and threats to its security. 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. The Alliance needs to be prepared to prevent, protect and recover from WMD attacks or CBRN¹ events.
- NATO’s Combined Joint CBRN Defence Task Force consists of the CBRN Joint Assessment Team and the CBRN Defence Battalion.
- The CBRN Defence Battalion is a NATO body specifically trained and equipped to deal with CBRN incidents and/or attacks against NATO populations, territory or forces.
- The Battalion trains not only for armed conflict, but also for deployment in crises, where it supports civilian authorities, such as natural disasters and industrial accidents.
- It falls under the authority of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
NATO’s Combined Joint CBRN Defence Task Force (CJ-CBRND-TF), which consists of the CBRN Joint Assessment Team (CBRN-JAT) and the CBRN Defence Battalion, is a NATO body specifically trained and equipped to deal with CBRN incidents and/or attacks against NATO populations, territory or forces.
The Battalion and Joint Assessment Team, 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.
Although the Battalion trains primarily for armed conflict, it is also prepared for deployment in crisis situations such as natural disasters, infectious disease outbreaks and industrial accidents, including those involving hazardous material. To maintain the Task Force’s specialised skills and capabilities, NATO’s Defence Against Terrorism Programme of Work (DAT POW) supports training exercises.
The Task Force benefits from the capability commitments made by Allies at various summit meetings: a Deployable CBRN Analytical Laboratory, a Multirole Exploitation and Reconnaissance Team, and an Aerial Radiological Survey capability. These capabilities greatly enhance the Alliance’s defence against WMD and CBRN threats.
The CBRN Defence 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 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, it played a key planning role during the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece, the NATO 2004 Istanbul and 2006 Riga Summits, where it supported CBRN-related contingency operations.
The Battalion is capable of conducting the following tasks:
- Support to national governments in addressing CBRN crises, as approved by the NAC;
- CBRN reconnaissance and monitoring operations;
- Sampling and identification of biological, chemical, and radiological agents (SIBCRA);
- Provision of CBRN assessments and advice to NATO commanders;
- CBRN hazard management operations, such as decontamination, including disinfection and sanitisation.
In the long history of the Task Force, more than 20 Allies have contributed on a voluntary basis. Eight of those countries assumed responsibility to lead the Task Force. National commitments vary depending on the rotation, but usually between 8-10 countries are involved per rotation.
In 2010, a non-NATO member country participated for the first time, when Ukraine contributed a decontamination platoon after having accomplished a NATO evaluation and certification process.
The Joint Assessment Team and the 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 CBRN defence requirements and develops capabilities.
The battalion-level structure is composed of personnel from a number of NATO countries, on stand-by for 12-month rotations. It may also include personnel and CBRN defence assets from partner countries. Similar to 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 provides the CBRN-JAT and Battalion headquarters, responsible for command and control arrangements, maintaining standard operational procedures, sustaining readiness levels, and planning and conducting training. Contributing countries supply functional capabilities. This includes providing requisite troops, equipment and logistical support in accordance with mission requirements. The Task Force consists of separate but complementary 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;
- Task Force Headquarters – Tailored command and control capabilities with a robust communications package to support assigned and attached structures;
- Reconnaissance – Designed to provide route, area and point detection and identification of agents;
- Decontamination – Maintains the capability to decontaminate personnel and equipment;
- Deployable CBRN Analytical Laboratories– Designed to provide operational and forensic sampling, CBRN explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) teams, identification of CBRN materials, and scientific advice to support operational commanders.
- CBRN Multirole Exploitation and Reconnaissance Team – Designed to provide CBRN capabilities in direct support of Special Operations Forces;
- Aerial Radiological Survey – Can detect and identify radiological materials and determines the extent of the radiological contamination.
The Battalion has a close relationship with the NATO Response Force. While it can be deployed independently, it is consistent with and complements the NRF. Its strength is included within the NRF force structure and its components can deploy within 2 to 30 days.
The Task Force also maintains a close relationship with the Framework Nations Concept (FNC) Cluster CBRN Protection, which is a multinational German-led project. It provides a platform to maintain, consolidate and improve current capabilities on a multinational basis. Furthermore, it is designed to train and prepare CBRN defence units, and serves as a platform for identifying forces in order to facilitate the force generation process for the Task Force.
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, a force generation conference was held at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), Mons, Belgium. On 18-21 November, 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 rotation system of the NRF. The concept of operations and the capability requirements of the Battalion were revised three times, the last time in 2018 to incorporate lessons learned from previous NRF rotations and operational deployments, as well as to reflect changes in the security environment that took place in recent years. Moreover, a revised reinforcement policy for the Task Force was approved in 2019.
- 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, equipment or compounds that can be used for development or deployment of WMD, CBRN weapons or CBRN devices.