The Fox Nuclear Biological and Chemical Reconnaissance Vehicle was the most sophisticated, technically complex piece of chemical detection equipment the United States used in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. This vehicle contains state-of-the-art chemical reconnaissance systems and, at the time of the Gulf War, was a leap in technology over existing US capabilities. Using an on-board mass spectrometer, the Fox vehicle can inform personnel of the possible presence of dangerous chemical warfare agents.

The Fox vehicle is a reconnaissance system with a primary function to detect, sample, identify, and determine the boundaries of areas contaminated with persistent liquid chemical warfare agents. During the Gulf War, while on the move, US soldiers and Marines used the Fox as a mobile vapor detector to search for possible chemical warfare agents. Although it can detect chemical warfare agent vapors in the air, the Fox was designed to detect liquid chemical warfare agents on the ground. Therefore, when used as a mobile vapor detector, the Fox vehicle may not indicate chemical warfare agent vapor presence in time to prevent chemical warfare agent casualties among unprotected personnel. The Fox vehicle with its MM-1 mobile mass spectrometer and air/surface sampler quickly surveys for chemical warfare agents most likely to be present given the threat. An alert during this initial survey indicates the need for additional testing by performing a spectrum analysis of a sample. The more time-consuming spectrum analysis is necessary to determine possible chemical warfare agent presence with a higher degree of confidence.

Leaders and operators recognized that the Fox improved the ability to protect US personnel during the Gulf War. To rapidly fill a critical need for better detection capability during the US forces build-up in the Gulf, the US government accepted that the Fox had inherent limitations but offered improvements over existing equipment. Unfortunately, neither the vehicle’s capabilities nor limitations were well understood, and doctrine, training, and operating procedures were limited. During Operation Desert Storm, operating tactics of employment often did not allow the Fox vehicle to stop to conduct more detailed spectrum analyses. Consequently, this limited the Fox’s ability to increase confidence in the validity of a chemical warfare agent alarm. Contaminants, e.g., oil well fire smoke, also hindered the Fox vehicle’s detection capabilities. In addition, limited training of Fox MM-1 operators restricted their ability to understand and analyze the results of some detections. Improvements made to the Fox and published doctrine since the Gulf War should increase system capabilities for potential future conflicts.

This paper explains in more technical detail the Fox vehicle and its capabilities, limitations, and use during the Gulf War.

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