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The ability to recover assets after a chemical agent attack and rapidly resume normal operations is a military priority. An innovative coating that can temporarily shield tactical military equipment from chemical warfare agents (CWAs) is under development. The US Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) is working with Pentagon and commercial partners to produce and refine the technology.
To date, military machinery and battlefield tools have been coated in substances that can provide visual camouflage and corrosion protection. But existing coatings have thus far been unable to offer the most adequate boosted resistance against chemical agents.
“We have been exploring ways to make military equipment as easy to clean as possible and prevent [CWAs] from penetrating into standard coatings,” Science and Technology Manager in DTRA’s Protection and Hazard Mitigation Division, Dr. Bernadette Higgins, told Nextgov.com.
The ultimate intent is not to create a unique permanent coating — but instead, officials want to develop, test and improve temporary overcoats that can be sprayed, wiped or brushed on equipment by troops, then work and withstand exposure for at least six months out in the field.
The researchers are leaning on some of the latest advances in polymer synthesis, engineering, and coating formulations to improve both resistance from dangerous chemicals and the decontamination process of painted military surfaces “down to the stainless-steel level.” They are turning to a recently validated test standard known as the Chemical Agent Resistance Method to compare and quantify CWA resistance for existing and in-the-making coating systems.
Tests of newly-made overcoats so far have demonstrated a reduction in the amount of absorbed CWAs “by fivefold to a hundredfold,” officials reported, and the coatings worked for more than 8 weeks in normal environmental conditions.