Boosting NATO's CBRN capabilities
NATO's Multinational Chemical, Biological, Radiological
and Nuclear (CBRN) Defence Battalion is both an effective solution
to a capabilities shortfall and a model for future NATO transformation.
The high-readiness, multinational unit not only adds to NATO's credibility
in dealing with the growing threat posed by weapons of mass destruction,
but also presents a path for improving Allied force-generation and defence-planning
processes in the future.
"The Battalion presents a model of how NATO's transformation can go," says Lieutenant-Colonel
Rainer Bürling from the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) branch of the
Plans and Policy Division of NATO's International Military Staff. "If current
progress can be maintained, the Battalion may be used as a prototype of how to
develop new joint Allied capabilities, conduct joint training and evaluate lessons
The essential mission of the Multinational CBRN Defence Battalion is
to provide NATO joint forces and commands, wherever deployed, with a
rapidly deployable and credible defence against nuclear, biological and
chemical attacks. In practice, this means providing the NATO Response
Force with the full spectrum of NBC defence, including the capability
to conduct consequence-management operations in the event of attacks
with weapons of mass destruction. As a secondary assignment, the unit
may also be committed to assisting civilian authorities of Allied nations
as during the 2004 Olympic and Paralympic Games, where elements of the
Battalion were deployed to Halkida, Greece, as part of NATO's efforts
to provide CBRN assistance to the Greek government.
The Battalion comprises a Headquarters Company, a Joint Assessment team
as well as a Nuclear-Chemical Reconnaissance Company, a Biological Detection
Capability and a deployable NBC Analytical Laboratory. These capabilities
enable the Battalion to perform NBC reconnaissance operations and provide
mobile collection and analysis facilities needed for on-the-spot confirmatory
identification of NBC substances, not least chemical and biological warfare
agents. This, in turn, enables the Battalion to provide in-theatre NBC
assessments and advice to NATO commanders. The Battalion also includes
light and heavy decontamination companies making it capable of performing
Efforts to improve Allied capabilities in the areas of NBC defence date
back to the Prague Summit in November 2002, where the Allies endorsed
five nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological weapons defence initiatives
as part of the Prague Capabilities Commitment. Specifically, the CBRN
Defence Battalion represents an acceleration of the decision taken at
Prague to enhance Alliance capabilities to build a prototype NBC response
team and a prototype deployable NBC Analytical Laboratory.
The decision to form the Battalion was taken at the June 2003 meeting
of NATO defence ministers in Brussels. In December 2003, an initial operational
capability was achieved as the Battalion was launched in the Czech Republic.
After six months of NATO certification and training the Battalion was
declared "fully operational" at the Istanbul Summit in June 2004. At
the same time, the CBRN Defence Battalion became part of the six-month
rotation of the NATO Response Force.
The operational concept of the Multinational CBRN Defence Battalion is
based on the principle of rotating commands. This means that just like
the NATO Response Force, the Battalion is not a single standing force.
Rather, it is comprised of different units and sub-units from across
Allied nations that each serve for a fixed period under the leadership
of a lead nation.
The lead nation provides core headquarters staff and is responsible for
command and control arrangements, maintaining standard operational procedures,
sustaining readiness levels and for planning and conducting collective
training. Contributing nations supply functional capabilities. This includes
providing requisite troops, equipment and logistical support in accordance
with mission requirements.
Germany took over responsibility as lead nation from the Czech Republic
on 1 July 2004. On 1 July 2005, Spain became the CBRN Defence Battalion's
third lead nation.