Air Force Attacks Biological Agents with Heat, Humidity

Scott Air Force Base, IL - A recent Joint Capability Technology Demonstration on a C-130 cargo aircraft at Orlando International Airport, Florida, showed how hot, humid air can decontaminate large pieces of equipment from biological agents.

The Air Mobility Command-hosted final out-brief and demonstration of the Joint Biological Agent Decontamination System on Jan. 22 signaled the multi-year project is coming to a close. The success of the new technology is the result of collaboration among several Department of Defense and other government organizations.

During the demonstration, an Air Force Research Laboratory technical team simulated Anthrax contamination by using an environmentally safe, commercially available organic insecticide.  The team, with contract support from AeroClave LLC, then showed how heat and humidity in a closed environment can eliminate both interior and exterior biological contamination.  

"Although final results of the JCTD are pending, preliminary indicators point to a 'complete kill' of the biological simulant," said Larry Magnuson, AMC JBADS Operational Manager.

JBADS is a revolutionary decontamination process designed to meet an urgent joint service need to expedite the return of a biologically contaminated aircraft to full service without placing aircrew members and support personnel at risk of exposure.  U.S. Transportation Command and U.S. Strategic Command sponsored, and AMC managed, the JBADS JCTD. 

In the final Operational Utility Assessment November 2014 through January 2015, AFRL conducted two separate JBADS demonstrations using high levels of heat and relative humidity (170 degrees Fahrenheit and 90 percent relative humidity). The two decontamination cycles ran three and four days, respectively, to complete. The goal of each demonstration was to reduce simulant concentrations to "below infectious levels."

An additional goal was to ensure that the JBADS process was not harmful to aircraft equipment and material.  An independent assessment is still under way to confirm the findings; however, the preliminary results indicate that all JBADS goals were met. The final assessment report is expected by April.

Dr. Donald Erbschloe, Air Mobility Command Chief Scientist, hosted the JBADS JCTD final outbrief that was attended by the Air Force Chief Scientist as well as representatives of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering (Emerging Capabilities & Prototyping), Department of Homeland Security, Joint Requirements Office, Joint Science and Technology Office, Joint Program Executive Office, USTRANSCOM, U.S. Strategic Command, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Air Force Special Operations Command and AMC.  

Erbschloe said, "This series of JBADS demonstrations culminates a seven-year effort to find a process that will neutralize biological warfare agents and naturally-occurring diseases such as pandemic influenza and Ebola without harming aircraft systems and ensuring the safety of aircrew, maintainers, and ground handlers."

He said the results look promising.  "The success of the demonstration would not have been possible without the outstanding research and support provided by a large cross section of DOD agencies and industry working in full cooperation.  This was a true team effort. This was a true team effort." 

With the completion of the JBADS demonstrations, the results will be forwarded for future development while the aircraft and the associated equipment remain available for future DOD studies and deployment if needed.