Technology

Falcon Squadron: Meet The Army's Chemical Hazard Team

The Warminster-based unit uses adapted vehicles and specialist training to combat chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear hazards.

Salisbury hosted this year's national Armed Forces Day event.

The city was chosen as a tribute to the military teams and emergency services who responded to the nerve agent attack in March last year.

Falcon Squadron, The Royal Tank Regiment, were involved in the clean-up, named 'Operation Morlop'.

They employed their adapted vehicles and specialist training to help with the decontamination, which began in September 2018.

The city of Salisbury was declared decontaminated nearly six months later when Sergei Skripal's house and 11 other potentially infected sites were ruled safe.

Falcon Squadron is the British Army's only mounted counter Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) team and is a sub-unit of 22 Engineer Regiment.

The importance of a counter-CBRN capability has been highlighted both in the conflict in Syria and the Salisbury attack in the UK.

Forces News was given special access to some of their specialist equipment.

Fuchs-Area-Survey-and-Reconnaissance-Vehicle-BFBS

Fuchs Area Survey and Reconnaissance Vehicle

These vehicles are the first to go into a contaminated area and are able to identify chemical, radiological and nuclear hazards.

Crewed by members of Falcon Area Survey and Reconnaissance Squadron, Officer Commanding, Major Matt Bonner said: "We survive and operate in a chemical environment, so combat troops don't have to."

When a hazard is suspected, the vehicles will enter an area first and establish the severity of it.

Other personnel will then enter the situation if necessary, going around the vehicle.

Fuchs vehicles are sealed against the elements, allowing for personnel to remain safe inside for as long as needed.

"You can survive in here as long as you've got food and water," says driver, Lance Corporal Tom Pullen

"These are really good cross county, they're very hard to get stuck," he adds.

"They're quite quick as well so you can cover open ground really quickly, which is good."

Probe Fuchs Area Survey and Reconnaissance Vehicle BFBS

Probe

This gets the chemicals from outside to inside the vehicle for testing.

The probe uses two wheels which can lift off the ground to pass substances into the testing system.

Once the chemical has been identified, information can be passed up to other regiments on the ground.

Personnel will then be told whether protective equipment is required.

Met Sensor Probe Fuchs Area Survey and Reconnaissance Vehicle BFBS

Met Sensor

This piece of technology measures everything from wind speed to humidity and air pressure.

Variants such as wind speed can have a drastic implication when dealing with dangerous substances.

'A lot of pressure'

For personal tasked with using this equipment, there is a degree of responsibility.

"If we don't do our job correctly thousands of people potentially get injured or die," says Corporal Richard Stringer.

"So it's a lot of pressure on our shoulders which I think drives us forward."

Maj Bonner added: "We've only been in this role since 2015, so we've been learning more and more about how we think we might be employed.

"We've now got to a point where we're ready to be employed amongst other people and other capabilities as well.

"The Army has rec the increased threat as a result of events that have taken place both overseas and domestically.

"They've stood up a new regt, which is 28 Engineer regiment, counter-CBRN, which we look forward to re-subordinating to in the next few months."