Czech Forces

The chemical forces from the Czech and Slovak Republic (referred to as the Czechs) that served in the Gulf were under contract to the Saudi government to provide chemical weapons/agent detection to the Saudi government during the Persian Gulf War.[14] The Saudis sought to hire the Czechs because they did not have sufficient personnel trained in NBC defense.[15] The following is an excerpt of the agreement between Saudi Arabia and the Czech Republic:

A unit of Czechoslovak military specialists comprising [sic] of 169 persons was sent to the Gulf as a result of an agreement between the government of the Czech and Slovak Republic (CSFR) and the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) regarding the function and conditions of Czechoslovak military specialists in the area of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The agreement was signed in Prague on November 19, 1990, and amended in Riyadh on November 22, 1990 .…

As a result of an operational order of the Northern area commander of the [Department of Defense] DOD of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the unit was incorporated into the order of that region on December 22 .… On January 1, 1991, the two chemical battalions were incorporated into the order of the 4th and 20th brigade of the KSA military. The rest of the unit was deployed at the basic camp with the staff.

Deployment and strategic control of the unit was fully within the competency of Saudi Arabia. The concrete means of completing tasks was decided by the unit commander… whose duty was to make sure that the valid Czechoslovak legal order and basic standards of international law were not violated while completing the tasks.

The Czechoslovak chemical unit was mainly carrying out these tasks:

  • Chemical support of the HQ of the Northern area and troops deployed in the area of the King Khalid Military City
  • Chemical support of the 4th and 20th brigade of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  • In case of toxic agents used against personnel to deploy a personnel decontamination site for them.[16]

Of the 169 Czech troops sent to the Gulf, 56 were career chemical defense specialists with the Czech military. They were all graduates of military post-secondary schools in the chemical defense branch. The chemical specialists worked with selected toxic agents both in the laboratory, as well as at chemical defense training facilities. The Czech chemical detection personnel were highly trained chemical specialists.[17]

Czech Chemical Detection Equipment[18]

The Czech chemical unit brought its own advanced detection equipment with them to the gulf:

The unit had available to it all modern means of chemical monitoring. This chemical defense equipment is capable of detecting threshold sensitivities (levels not interfering with normal human activity) of the anticipated toxic agents, and it enables differentiation between Sarin nerve agent and V-type agents.[19]

The Czech units in the Gulf were equipped with the GSP-11 automatic nerve agent detector alarm, the CHP-71 chemical agent detector, the PCHL-90 field portable chemical laboratory and a truck-mounted mobile laboratory. The available literature about the Czech equipment is limited, however it provides a summary of the chemical detection capabilities available to the Czech specialists.[20]

GSP-11 Automatic Nerve Agent Detector Alarm

The GSP-11 uses a photodetector to detect a color change on a tape that has been treated with a reagent. Nerve agent sets off both an audible and a visible alarm. The GSP-11 uses biochemical reaction (acetylcholinesterase inhibition) chemistry. Consequently, it can detect both V-type nerve agents and G-type nerve agents, including GA (Tabun), GB (Sarin), GD (Soman), GF (Cyclosarin) and VF. The chemical reactions in the GSP-11 are temperature sensitive, and the device has a thermostatically controlled electric heater that maintains a constant temperature between +33 and +38 degrees Centigrade (91.4 and 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit). Operating the device outside the range of -30 to +40 degrees Centigrade (-22 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit) may cause the alarm to cease functioning or give a false alarm. The GSP-11 may be used for fixed-point continuous air monitoring or it may be mounted in reconnaissance vehicles. If nerve agents are detected, a second equipment set, the CHP-71, is used to identify the specific agent and its concentration.[21]

The GSP-11 has two sensitivity ranges (0.05 mg/m3 and 0.005 mg/m3). At the more sensitive setting, test samples are taken at intervals of 60 to 80 seconds. Each test cycle lasts between 22 and 26 seconds. Airflow through the system is between 0.7 and 1.0 liter/minute. This setting allows the GSP-11 to remain in operation for two hours on one reagent filling. At the less sensitive setting, test samples are taken at intervals of 5 to 8 minutes. Each test cycle lasts between 1.5 and 2.5 minutes. Airflow is reduced to 0.5 to 0.7 liter/minute. At this lower sensitivity setting, the unit can remain operational on one reagent filling for 10 to 12 hours.[22]

CHP-71 Chemical Agent Detector

The CHP-71 chemical agent detector is a lightweight, portable instrument used for the point detection of chemical agents in the air, on terrain, and on the surface of military equipment. A built-in motorized pump draws an air sample at 3 liters/minute into the unit and through the detector tubes. To identify chemical agents, color changes in the detector tubes are compared to a standard color chart for the identification of the chemical agent. The color can also indicate the concentration level of the toxic agent identified. If the CHP-71 is mounted in a vehicle and running off the vehicle power supply, it has an unlimited operational time. If it is running off its own batteries, the unit can operate at temperatures above 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) for six hours on one battery kit. The CHP-71 can detect GB, GD and V-type nerve agents, blister agents (H), and other chemical warfare agents. It is capable of detecting nerve agents at levels of 0.0005 mg/m3 and blister agents at a level of 1 mg/m3. High concentrations of Ammonia (NH3), Sulfur dioxide (SO2), or Chlorine (CL2) can trigger false positive readings.[23]

PCHL-90 Portable Chemical Laboratory

The PCHL-90 is a portable unit containing chemical reagents and appropriate laboratory equipment. It is designed to detect, under field conditions, the presence of chemical agents on contaminated equipment, uniforms, clothing, terrain, water, food, animal feed, and various materials. The PCHL-90 can also detect residual contamination and the effectiveness of decontaminating solutions and mixtures containing active chlorine. Visible color changes from chemical reactions indicate agent detection. The PCHL-90 is intended for rapid quantitative and semi-qualitative analysis of toxic substances like organophosphorus-based chemical warfare agents, herbicides, alkaloids and others. It checks the decontamination of materials, objects and terrain, as well as solutions and mixtures that contain active chlorine, and analyzes any undefined samples. The kit can detect GB, GD, and VX nerve agents, H blister agents, and other agent classes. Sensitivity for GB and GD is 0.005 mg/m3 in air, 1 mg/liter in water, and .005 mg/m2 on surfaces. Sensitivity for H is 5 mg/m3.[24]

Truck Mounted Mobile Laboratory

A detailed description of the Czech truck-mounted mobile laboratory's capabilities is not currently available; however, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) described the mobile laboratory as "a basic but well-equipped unit with a good capability to classify chemical warfare agents, although not able to identify specific agents at very low levels." Since tests conducted in this laboratory were destructive to the sample tested, a small quantity of sample might not have supported a complete test. The amount of sample the Czechs collected for the nerve and blister agent detections is unknown. Therefore, it is impossible to determine the completeness of the tests conducted by the truck mounted mobile laboratory.[25]

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