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Australia’s Defence Science and Technology develops test to assess the capacity of the protective equipment of soldiers against chemical threats

Australia’s Defence Science and Technology develops test to assess the capacity of the protective equipment of soldiers against chemical threats

Defence Science and Technology (DST), a part of Australia’s Department of Defence, is able to provide
scientific and technological advice on a selection of ensembles through the
Vapour System Test. It is a significant capability that also gives an
understanding of the performance of current in-service equipment.

According to the report
made by DST, the threat of indiscriminate use of chemical weapons still exists,
so being able to prove that the Defence's protective equipment will perform and
keep the people safe is of the utmost importance.

DST Researcher Ms Julia Freeman said that
developing a system with capability to assess the protective capacity of
equipment against chemical threats requires a lot of work. It enables the DST
scientists to assess how all of the individual protective equipment works
together.

The Environmental Test Facility (ETF)
enables full system testing which helps Defence understand the implication of
various types of equipment being acquired. The ETF allows any environmental
conditions on Earth to be replicated, from dry heat to tropical rainforest.
Getting it to produce snow is almost possible, too.

Ms Freeman explained that equipment is
often purchased in different cycles and they need to understand how the new
piece of equipment integrates into the current system.

She added that the research they do also
enlightens them on how other equipment worn by soldiers affects vapour
protection. For instance, if a helmet disrupts the respirator or compromises
one’s chemical protection.

Ms Freeman discussed that they used to test
on small swatches of fabric historically. Although they were able to gather a
lot of information about that tiny piece of fabric, the reality is that the
soldiers and first responders wear full garments and the whole thing needs to
be checked in order to know how they perform.

Collaborations have also been made with
other DST teams in order to assess sub-zero degree sleeping bags as well as
curing times for adhesives in tropical environments.

Ms Freeman observed that their system has
become more refined, especially after many trials involving the use of manikins
to replicate human movement. The method that they use can process all the
samples from a full manikin test, including validation checks in less than half
a day.

She concluded that this investment is really
paying off for Defence as the soldiers have become more confident in their
equipment. Add to that how this helps enable the Defence to make better
acquisition decisions.

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