JBADS helps air base guard against germs — and a lot more

by Vern Evans

As the COVID-19 pandemic showed the world, nobody is immune to the spread of disease. For members of the American military protecting the country, the risks of exposure to contaminants involve more threats than the coronavirus.

The threat of biological attack is a real one in modern-day warfare and one the Defense Department (DOD) takes seriously. In 2022, a Pentagon official told National Defense Magazine that the DOD planned to spend $300 million over five years to help prevent against known and emerging biological threats.

With the safety of its members in mind, high-level military leaders recognized decontamination systems as a critical need in 2016. The Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense (JPEO-CBRND) pushed forward with an engineering and manufacturing development and production program in 2018. The following year, AeroClave was awarded the contract to produce the first Joint Biological Agent Decontamination System (JBADS), which was delivered to the U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico in 2021.

“JBADS provides our military with a unique and safe solution to decontaminate an aircraft to protect our warfighters and support the mission,” says Steve Richards, VP of Government Programs and JBADS Program Manager at AeroClave. “The system can also be used to decontaminate other platforms such as smaller aircraft, rotorcraft, and land vehicles.”

The JPEO-CBRND conducted briefings and tours of the system at Holloman Air Force Base in May 2023. The JBADS Product Manager, Brant Lagoon, presented and demonstrated how the JBADS worked. He explains, “The JBADS is a biothermal system that uses no chemicals in the decontamination process. The heat and humidity used in the process are precisely controlled by utilizing high-reliability commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) systems. The system run time, temperature, and humidity levels are determined by the biological agent kill profile.”

The JBADS can be transported by aircraft, rail, ship or truck to anywhere in the world that the military needs them.

“The JBADS is a cost-effective solution as it uses no corrosive cleaning agents, minimizes labor to decontaminate the aircraft and effectively decontaminates all areas of the aircraft, even ones that are extremely difficult to access by conventional methods,” Richards says. “The system has no contamination runoff which saves time and cost in the post-decontamination cleanup process, and is safer for our environment.”

AeroClave developed and tested the first large commercial aircraft biothermal decontamination system in 2003 in response to the SARS epidemic. In 2011, while under contract with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, the company successfully decontaminated a military cargo aircraft from harmful biological agents utilizing a prototype JBADS. A 2016 test added the use of an aircraft enclosure to the system to decontaminate both the interior and exterior of aircrafts and reduce decontamination time in the process. That study showed that the system could remediate mold and other contaminants that could cause health issues for maintenance workers as well as limit the life of the fuselage due to microbial corrosion.

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