Russia’s big plans for modernising its national system for protection against CBRN threats

The Russian government plans to update the existing state concept for the prevention of CBRN threats in the country. Its aim is to increase the level of radiation, chemical and biological protection for the local population, according to recent statements made by senior officials in the Russian ministry of emergency situations and the ministry of defence.

As part of this, there are plans to expand the network for monitoring and laboratory control of civil defence and protection, and to start the more active introduction of new technologies and methods in the field of radiation and chemical monitoring. In addition, particular attention will be paid to the more active use of chemical defence troops when dealing with CBRN threats, including Covid-19, in Russia. So far, these troops -  which were officially established on 13 November 1918, by the № 220 order of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Russian Republic - have proved their efficiency during some of their foreign missions. The latest of these involved successfully fighting the pandemic in Italy in March/April 2020.

For the Italian mission, the Russian ministry of defence deployed its CBRN laboratory, eight special decontamination vehicles and a squadron of 66 troops. The successful completion of this mission has raised the issue of possibly using these troops more actively in the fight against the pandemic on Russian territory. The Russian authorities broadly support this idea, despite the fact that thanks to their recent efforts, they have generally been able to stop the rapid spread of the disease throughout the country. According to some local analysts, the use of CBRN troops to help in fighting Covid-19 in Russia could be considered should there be a possible deterioration of the situation in the second half of this year.

As part of its preparations for this, the ministry of defence plans to organise and conduct a military training programme, most likely similar to one which was held in March/April. This took place in the Amur Region, Primorsky, as well as some other Far Eastern regions in close proximity to the border with China, and which involved the use of domestic CBRN troops to prevent Covid-19 spreading deep into Russian territory. During these training sessions particular attention will be paid to setting up innovative aerosol screens designed to mask important objects, which can not be detected by either radar or satellites.

According to the defence ministry, it is intended to test various methodologies based on hydrocarbons in the course of these exercises, including those that allow for the creation of an impenetrable screen that will last for up to eight hours. This is also important in ensuring protection from precision-strike attacks.

Currently the Russian army has a wide range of aerosol products that can provide protection from reconnaissance and surveillance. Some of them are designed to counter optical reconnaissance, while others counter radars.

In a recent interview with the Russian military paper, Krasnaya Zvezda, Lieutenant General Igor Kirillov, the commander of chemical defence troops stated that particular attention will be paid to the further rearmament of military units that are involved in dealing with CBRN threats.

In fact, this process began in 2019, when the Russian chemical defence troops received more than 350 units of special equipment for addressing these needs. The equipment included TDA-3 thermo-smoke machines, remote control systems for aerosol counteraction (KDUD), KRPP-2 control and distribution points for active decontamination, USSO u niversal special treatment stations, and UTM-80 universal heat engines among others.

The development of the heavy flamethrower system TOS-2 is currently ongoing, although deliveries to the Russian armed forces should begin later this year.

According to Igor Kirillov, particular hopes are being put on the development of a multifunctional robotic complex for CBRN protection. The new complex will comprise ground-based robotic platforms and unmanned aerial vehicles, including both helicopter and aircraft types. The complex will be designed to carry out the whole set of measures required to conduct CBRN reconnaissance and eliminate the consequences of the use of weapons of mass destruction, as well as dealing with accidents at CBRN related danger sites both in peace and wartime.

Moreover, by the end of the current year the supply of a new CBRN reconnaissance vehicle, which is based on a new generation chassis, will begin. The new vehicle was presented at the 2019 Armya Rossyi expo, one of Russia’s largest annual military expos and, according to analysts, may become the main CBRN reconnaissance vehicle for the Russian chemical defence troops for years to come.

Overall, Russian CBRN military forces have achieved significant progress in the renewal of their arsenal of equipment in recent years. As of now, the share of modern weapons and special military equipment in the Russian chemical defence forces is estimated at about 65% and will reach at least 70% by the end of the current year.

In addition to supplies of new equipment, the command of the Russian chemical defence troops is undertaking further modernisation of their existing armaments and special equipment. That means improving the operational characteristics of these weapons as well as their overall modernisation.

The size of the investment necessary to implement these plans has not, as yet, been disclosed, however, according to some sources in the Russian ministry of defence it is lies somewhere in the range of $1bn - $1.5bn.

In general, the Russian military has rich experience of the prevention and handling of CBRN threats over many decades. Examples of this are the successful fights against large scale epidemics of smallpox and anthrax, which occurred in the USSR during the 1950s and 1970s for fighting against plague, tularemia, yellow fever and other diseases.

The collapse of the USSR in 1991 and the ensuing economic crisis in Russia, however, led to a crisis right across the country’s entire prevention system against CBRN threats. One of the major negative consequences was the destruction of much of the infrastructure that was used for training troops to deal with CBRN threats and their prevention.

For example, the collapse of the USSR resulted in the closure of the majority of landfills, which were used when conducting training in this field, including the largest one, which was located by the Aral Sea. Furthermore, there has been a massive outflow of specialists from this sector.

Still, the recovery of the entire Russian system for the prevention of CBRN threats only began at the start of 2010s, shortly after the commencement of a massive reform of the nation’s armed forces.

I got these changes on seeing a report of upcoming exercises on The Economic Times of India website.

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