The UK has launched a two-million-pound competition alongside the US in a joint-mission to safely eliminate chemical and biological devices on the battlefield.
The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA), part of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and UK Ministry of Defence, has launched the ‘Don’t Blow It!’ competition, the first joint UK-US industry competition run by DASA and funded by the MOD and US Department of Defense.
Competitors have been asked to identify innovative concepts or adapt current technologies to access, disable and destroy chemical and biological devices. This includes chemical and biological munitions, improvised explosive devices containing lethal agents or containers of bulk quantities of chemical or biological agents discovered on the battlefield or in other austere and resource-limited environments.
Defence Minister Stuart Andrew said:
“Horrific incidents stretching from Salisbury to Syria this year have shown us that chemical weapons are sadly still very much a reality – but a reality that we are determined to deal with. Destroying these deadly weapons is a complicated process and not doing it properly could mean devastating collateral damage. These are challenges that we share with our allies like the US. Competitions like this help us to tackle them head on with some of the best and brightest minds across both our countries.”
Although it is over 100 years since the first large-scale use of chemical weapons, the threat from both chemical and biological weapons persists. This has been demonstrated by the recent rise in the use of such deadly weapons on the battlefield and in targeted attacks.
Much progress has been made to destroy state-declared global stockpiles of chemical weapons through very successful large scale destruction programmes, utilising techniques such as incineration, explosive destruction or neutralisation. However, to meet emerging and future challenges, such as the destruction of smaller caches produced by terrorists in resource-limited or hostile environments such as Iraq or Syria, there needs to be a focus on developing more robust elimination capabilities that are less labour intensive.
The competition has an initial £500,000 to fund multiple proof-of-concept proposals at low Technology Readiness Levels. Based on the outcome of the initial funding phase, an additional £1.5 million of funding could be released.