Britain takes lead role in Nato's chemical defence unit

Britain is to take on a leading role in a new multinational Nato battalion designed to respond to attacks from Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) weapons.

The battalion, which was launched today at the Nato Ministerial meeting at Mons, Belgium, will see the UK taking an influential role as it has been a leading proponent of CBRN defence. The new battalion will be able to deploy either independently or as part of the NATO Response Force.

Britain will provide the CBRN Defence Battalion with a biological detection capability - for example, with a mobile collection and analysis facility that detects and identifies airborne biological warfare agents.

Secretary of State for Defence Geoff Hoon said: "The new CBRN Defence Battalion will provide NATO with a significant operational capability against a very real and dangerous threat.

"This is another achievement towards meeting the commitments agreed last year at the Prague Summit. I am encouraged by the level of commitment from Alliance countries to the new battalion."

Nato Secretary General Lord Robertson called the battalion "a fast, flexible, deployable unit equipped to beat the threat".

"This new unit is a superb symbol of the transformed Nato," he said.

"In the first two rotations of this battalion, we will see 15 Nato countries and two of the invited members working together to provide a high-tech multinational solution to today's threats."

The battalion will be made up of 12 NATO nations and one invitee: Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania (the invitee), Spain, Turkey, UK and the USA.

The Czech Republic will lead the battalion during its first rotation, and has organised a ceremonial parade on 3 December. The UK will be represented by officers and soldiers from the Joint NBC Regiment, which will be meeting the commitment of a biological detection capability to the battalion.

The Multinational CBRN Defence Battalion will provide rapidly deployable CBRN defence capabilities and expert CBRN defence advice to Nato Commanders during the planning and conduct of an operation. The battalion will assist Nato in maintaining freedom of action in a nuclear, biological or chemical threat environment.

The battalion will not only provide a capability to the Alliance but also act as a vehicle to encourage Allies to develop their national CBRN defence capabilities.


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