OSAGWI releases information paper
on Fox vehicles for public comment

WASHINGTON, July 29, 1997 (GulfLINK) )- The Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses (OSAGWI) has just released an information paper outlining the capabilities of the Fox NBC Reconnaissance Vehicle, used during the Gulf War to detect Iraqi use of chemical warfare agents.

This information paper describes how the Fox uses a two-step process in the detection and identification of the presence of chemical agents. First, the vehicle uses a very sensitive process that instantly detects chemicals agents, along with many harmless substances. This quick alert allows time for troops to don protective gear and take additional, more precise readings.

The Fox then utilizes a mass spectrometer which takes several minutes to thoroughly analyze and identify the substance detected, to determine more specifically whether it is a chemical warfare agent or a harmless substance. This two-step process is used because the mass spectrometer takes several minutes to identify a specific chemical - time in which troops in the area could be exposed, if they did not have the early alert that chemical agents might be present.

There are two problems that have arisen in attempting to reconstruct incidents in which chemicals were detected by Fox vehicles during the Gulf War. Troops performing offensive operations, such as the Marine breaching operations, need to move quickly to reduce the risk of loss of troops and equipment from enemy fire. This meant that Fox vehicle operators were prohibited from stopping and performing the second step of detailed chemical analysis, which takes 10 to 15 minutes.

The second problem is that there were no requirements to print out permanent records of these chemical analyses, or even to maintain these records. Without the actual print-outs of the chemical analyses, reconstruction of the potential chemical incidents is much more difficult.

The 20-page Issue Paper on Fox Vehicles is now available on GulfLINK and can be accessed by clicking on this underlined phrase above.