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News | Dec. 5, 2022

DTRA Captures Real-time Feedback during Combatant Command Experiment

By Darnell Gardner Defense Threat Reduction Agency

In theory, operating in an unknown, unexpected and unanticipated threat environment significantly hinders decision-making abilities. However, with the predictive posturing and capabilities possessed by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and Enterprise partners that theory has increasingly evolved to an almost-for-certain practical awareness when confronted with emerging chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), along with various intra-agency and industry partners, supported and participated in Operation Dragon Spear, Research, Development, and Acquisition Experiment (RDAX) at Fort Story, VA, from 23 to 27 Oct. 2022.

“The RDAX was piloted to achieve a more thorough understanding of operator needs while on target in unknown, unexpected or unanticipated, CBRN-contested environments,” explained Markham Smith, lead for DTRA’s Chemical Biological Technologies Warfigher Integration supporting the exercise efforts. “We facilitated the participation of DTRA-sponsored technologies for candid user-feedback of emerging capability concepts, models, prototypes, and maturing CBRN research & development equities. This effort exercised exploratory employment concepts and how DTRA innovations can best support Joint Force capabilities needed to effectively navigate future complex environments.”

The RDAX event platform delivered emerging CBRN counter weapons of mass destruction (CWMD) threat scenarios that addressed operator’s core requirements in multiple environments. Technology enablers provided operators with the most advanced standoff agent detection and solution apparatuses to navigate threat-lanes, ensuring for maximum operator safety and decision-making abilities.

“These scenarios build interoperability to understand, protect and mitigate the effects of CBRN hazards that pose a threat to the Joint Force in future large scale combat operations,” explained U.S. Army Maj.

Alberto Rios, event coordinator for Operation Dragon Spear.

Throughout all phases of the experiment, operators provided technology enablers with vital feedback that will incorporate future product renditions.

“This kind of event allows users to experiment with current technology to determine how well it works in real-time threat scenarios,” explained a member of the 26th Chemical Reconnaissance Detachment. “If the technology does not accommodate our needs or is not user-functional, it doesn’t mean that it’s not worth the investment, but that developers need to revise the tech so that it is tailored to our actual needs.”

A key aspect of this event was to deliver on-the-spot developer-to-user engagement. Developers were not only on site to receive feedback, but also provide guidance on how to best utilize the technology. In addition, concept-developers were present to showcase on-the-horizon technology to give the warfighters a glimpse of potential future technology solutions.

“The virtual reality (VR) technology developed under my program can ingest data from any technologies that scan unfamiliar buildings and terrain. The resulting 3D representations can provide planners with a more accurate common operating picture for enhanced mission planning,” stated Dr. Chia-Wei Tsai, DTRA science and technology manager.

Results from the RDAX will provide verified content to facilitate identification and capability requirements for operators that are essential to maneuvering and countering CRBN as prescribed in strategic guidance.

“This event delivered expertise from DTRA’s chem-bio, nuclear and CWMD technology specialties. As one team, this consolidated experiment will streamline efforts to educate departments, agencies, and allies on emerging CBRN threats and develop best practices to inform strategy, policy, doctrine, requirements, research, development, acquisition, and tactics, “stated Smith.

Day One Highlights



DTRA provides cross-cutting solutions to enable the Department of Defense, the United States Government, and international partners to deter strategic attack against the United States and its allies; prevent, reduce, and counter WMD and emerging threats; and prevail against WMD-armed adversaries in crisis and conflict.  

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