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Reports and Memoranda



A Review of the Activities of the 1 Field Laboratory Unit and Suggested Biological Warfare Agent Detections during Operation Granby

INTRODUCTION

1. It has been suggested by some Gulf veterans and others that Iraq used biological warfare (BW) agents against coalition troops during the 1990/1991 Gulf conflict. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has stated(1) that there is no confirmed evidence of the offensive use of chemical or biological weapons (CBW) during the Gulf conflict.

2. The possibility that Iraq might use BW agents was of major concern to the UK Government in 1990/91. In order to detect the use of BW agents a specialist unit, known as 1 Field Laboratory Unit (1 FLU), was deployed. The MOD has undertaken to review the activities of 1 FLU. This paper outlines the history and activities of 1 FLU, comments on the alarms that were known to have occurred, and explains how these could have happened. There were many positive results on individual items of detection equipment that were recognised as false by the system operators at the time. However, one incident was less straightforward and is analysed in this paper. In the early hours of 20 January 1991, a detection was reported on a non-specific biological material detector. This lasted for several hours and resulted in samples being sent back to CBD Porton Down (2) for further analysis.

3. This review has used information currently available to the MOD. If anyone has additional documentary, historical or scientific evidence which may have a bearing on the activities of 1 FLU or BW matters in 1990/91, the MOD would be keen to analyse it.

Further Information

4. Further information about the Government’s response to the health concerns of Gulf veterans and all reports published by the MOD on this subject can be found on the Gulf Veterans’ Illnesses (GVI) Web page. The MOD can be contacted by e-mail on public@ministers.mod.uk. Alternatively, information is available from the Gulf Veterans’ Illnesses Unit (GVIU) which has been established as the Government’s focal point on this issue. GVIU can be contacted by calling the Helpline free on 0800 169 4495, by fax on 020 721 8849, or by writing to:

GVIU
Room 8296
MOD Main Building
Whitehall
London
SW1A 2HB

BACKGROUND

Previous Work

5. On 27 February 1997, The Independent newspaper published an article containing several allegations from an ex-member of 1 FLU regarding its role in the Gulf conflict. The text of the article is reproduced at Annex A.

6. The newspaper article prompted Parliamentary interest. The Countess of Mar tabled the following Parliamentary Question:

"What evidence was found from the samples collected by the Sandfly air sampling system of the presence of biological agents during Operation GRANBY."

7. The answer, by Lord Gilbert (the then Minister of State for Defence Procurement), published in House of Lords Hansard on 24 July 1997 (Official Report column WA182) stated that:

"During the Gulf War, nine biological detection system vehicles were operated by the 1st Field Laboratory Unit (1 FLU). Samples collected by the Sandfly air sampling system on the vehicles were tested for the presence of biological material. In the course of operations, 1 FLU did not record any instances of biological warfare agents being detected. As previously announced, the activities of 1 FLU will be reviewed by MOD as part of the new work on alleged biological agent detections during the Gulf War."

8. On 31 July 1997, Dr Reid (the then Minister of State for the Armed Forces) answered two written Parliamentary Questions from Robert Key MP. Mr Key asked:

"In what form samples were collected by the Sandfly air sampling system on each of the nine vehicles of the 1st Field Laboratory Unit in the Gulf War (a) recorded and (b) stored; and where those samples and records are currently kept."

and

"How many of the biological detection system vehicles operated by the 1st Field Laboratory Unit during the Gulf War (a) arrived at their destination with scientific equipment damaged and (b) were repaired to full operational capability by the end of the conflict; and if he will make a statement."

9. Dr Reid’s reply, published in House of Commons Hansard on 31 July 1997 (Official Report column 476), stated that he would write to Mr Key and that a copy of the letter would be placed in the Library of the House. The reply, dated 18 August1997(3), is reproduced at Annex B.

10. The Countess of Mar then asked a second question:

"What were the mechanisms in place at the time of Operation Granby to confirm enemy use of chemical and biological warfare agents."

11. Lord Gilbert’s answer was published in House of Lords Hansard on 13 November 1997 (Official Report column WA45):

"Standard operating procedure for UK Armed Forces requires that all chemical or biological alarms be assumed in the first instance to be genuine. Follow up drills are then implemented. Chemical alarms in the Gulf War would have been followed up using equipment such as the residual vapour detector, the chemical agent monitor and detector papers to test further for chemical agents. The biological warfare detection equipment which was fielded involved a three stage testing procedure, the third of which was capable of identifying a number of biological warfare agents. Had any of these follow up procedures suggested that a genuine chemical or biological detection had occurred, arrangements were in place in theatre for information to be immediately passed to the chain of command and for samples to be taken from the air or ground and returned to CBD Porton Down for further testing and positive identification of the agent or agents involved."

12. The activities of 1 FLU were also raised by the House of Commons Defence Select Committee in the evidence session on 26 February 1997. Information regarding 1 FLU was published in their report dated 19 March 1997(4). The Committee asked for "a note on the composition and activities of 1 FLU, on where the records of its work are now kept, and how they have been used." The Committee also asked to be provided with a copy of any report it produced, if necessary on a classified basis. The answer provided by MOD was as follows:

"1st Field Laboratory Unit (1 FLU) operated in a biological weapons (BW) defence role in theatre during the Gulf War.

It consisted of nine vehicles equipped with experimental detection equipment, each manned by a crew of five service personnel – a commander (normally a Sergeant), two laboratory technicians, an instrument technician and a driver. The crews were all drawn from the Royal Army Medical Corps and RAF. The unit also included a reserve crew member and a command cell. A scientist from the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment at Porton Down deployed with the team to provide further help as required.

The unit was principally concerned with collecting and testing air samples. It also collected data regarding the equipment itself (because this was experimental) and meteorological conditions.

A Post Operational Report for 1 FLU was produced, but this dealt only with the practicalities of the deployment and not the results of the work it had been doing. Following the Gulf War, it was decided that the UK’s biological warfare detection capability would not benefit from an analysis of the data from 1 FLU; the unit had not recorded any instance of BW agents being detected. Most of the records of the samples were, therefore, deemed to be of little use and destroyed. Those that remain are held at CBD Porton Down, but have not subsequently been used.

On an exceptional basis, MOD is prepared to release a copy of the 1 FLU POR. As this is a classified document, it has been passed separately to the Committee."

Related Work

13. On 14 July 1997, the MOD published a policy statement setting out its strategy for addressing the health concerns that have been expressed by veterans of the Gulf conflict(5). As part of this strategy, the Government pledged to review incidents during Operation GRANBY(6) where veterans have suggested that they were exposed to Iraqi CBW agents.

14. In December 1999, the MOD published a paper providing background information about the defensive system that was put in place during the Gulf conflict to protect UK troops from the threat of chemical warfare (CW) agents(7). Much of that paper is also relevant to the defensive system that existed to protect personnel against the threat of BW agents. As such, that paper provides a basis for detailed reviews of CBW incidents. The first of these reviews considered the release of CW agents after demolition of the Khamisayah ammunition dump on 10 March 1991(8). The second of these detailed reviews investigated the claims that a chemical attack took place in Al Jubayl in the early morning of 19 January 1991(9). A third paper is being prepared which will consider other incidents where it has been suggested that British troops were exposed to Iraqi CW agents.

15. The MOD has also published other papers relating to CBW agents and the countermeasures that were used to protect British troops against them. On 28 October 1997, the MOD published a paper on medical countermeasures including vaccines and Biological Antibiotic Treatment Sets (BATS), which protected against bacterial BW agents(10). In addition, a Fact-Finding Team conducted a study into the way in which the anti-biological warfare agent immunisation programme was implemented during the Gulf conflict. A report was published on 20 January 2000(11). Another paper, published by the MOD on 6 April 1998, reviewed the circumstances in which UK Forces reported the presence of groups of dead animals in-theatre during the Gulf conflict(12).

RESEARCH METHOD

16. This review draws on two main sources of evidence: surviving documentary records originated at the time of the Gulf conflict; and the present day recollections of those who were involved in the events.

Contemporary Documents

17. As with previous reviews, it has been found that often details of routine occurrences, or occurrences initially deemed significant but subsequently considered to be no longer so, were not recorded or kept. 1 FLU was a small, specialist unit that was formed specifically for the Gulf conflict. It did not have the usual administrative infrastructure of the larger, established units that deployed to theatre. Furthermore, 1 FLU operated in small teams in specialist vehicles known as Biological Detection Systems (BDS) that were split between a number of locations. These circumstances mean that the usual sources of unit information, such as the Commander’s Diary, never existed.

18. The BDS was conceived at CBD Porton Down. A considerable amount of information has been obtained from CBD Porton Down’s Operation GRANBY files. The Establishment maintained regular and routine contact with Headquarters (HQ) 1 FLU throughout the deployment.

19. During deployment, each BDS team was required to maintain a log of their location, the local meteorological conditions and the results from the equipment. Some of the results were saved directly to computer disk. Not all crews returned the complete records and some were damaged in transit back to the UK. After the conflict, staff from CBD Porton Down and the MOD discussed whether analysis of the extensive amount of data would be of benefit in the development of any future BW detection capability. It was concluded that it would not, especially as the data was incomplete. The majority of the data was destroyed after the Gulf conflict.

20. However, a number of the log sheets still exist and have been examined. A number of print outs and computer disks relating to an agent specific detection system, known as the Threshold detector, also exist. These disks have never been accessed because they were known from the contemporary written records to contain no unusual or significant data. The disks were not accessed as part of this review because their physical condition was uncertain; some had been poorly treated in transit to the UK and had been contaminated with sand and liquid. Furthermore, some of these disks are thought to carry computer viruses.

21. In addition to these official records, other sources of documentary evidence are still in existence, such as private diaries and letters. Where available, these have been used in this review.

Individual Recollections

22. The present day recollections of those who were involved with 1 FLU provide an additional source of information. However, the passing of time has a detrimental effect on personal memories. It is inevitable that those who have been contacted several years later may not be able to recall the finer details of an event. Therefore, personal recollections are useful but are less authoritative than the information contained on contemporary records.

23. As part of this review, interviews were conducted with key personnel, including the staff at CBD Porton Down who developed the BDS, and one who accompanied 1 FLU to theatre. The Officer in Charge (OIC) 1 FLU was also interviewed. Detailed questionnaires were also sent to the members of 1 FLU, of whom nearly half (21) responded. Others were contacted by telephone, including staff at CBD Porton Down who were involved in the development of the BDS and relevant staff from the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Cells(13) in theatre during the Gulf conflict.

24. In any historical investigation, different weight has to be given to the types of evidence. Contemporary written documents, such as reports, signals and log sheets are given high weighting. Interviews with personnel who served in 1 FLU are also important, especially when their testimony confirms what is known from contemporary records. Less weight is given to purely individual verbal testimony, although obviously, if several witnesses’ testimonies match exactly, more weight can be given.

The Bounds of Possibility

25. Detailed reviews such as this one are bound to uncover many loose ends that cannot be satisfactorily resolved. Where only limited information about specific details is available this is made clear, as is the point at which the more objective presentation of evidence gives way to the evaluation and interpretation of that evidence. The MOD’s approach is to ensure that these differences are made absolutely plain and that there can be no confusion between hard facts and more speculative information.

THE IRAQI BW THREAT

Background

26. When the UK agreed to send forces to the Gulf, it was known that they would be facing forces experienced in use of CW agents. The Iraqi government had used chemical weapons with varying degrees of success in the Iran-Iraq War and, as a result of the ruthless suppression of the Kurdish town of Halabjah, was known to be prepared to use them against its own population. It was also assessed that Iraq had the capability to produce and disseminate BW agents. Therefore, British Forces were faced with perhaps the most credible threat of BW in their history.

27. Accurate intelligence about an enemy’s CBW capability is a key element in establishing an effective chemical and biological defence posture. However, such intelligence is difficult to acquire. While there was sufficient intelligence available to make a fairly detailed assessment, encompassing knowledge of Iraq’s doctrine, tactics and battlefield experience of CW, there was less intelligence regarding BW. Nonetheless, it was considered probable that Iraq had the capability to disseminate BW agents, although their use would be subject to political approval. The threat of offensive use of BW agents was carefully considered and had to be taken into account in planning and decision making. This process led to the development of a requirement for a BW agent detection capability.

The 1990/1991 Contemporary Assessment

28. The Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS) provided regular contemporary BW intelligence assessments throughout the Gulf conflict. The earliest threat assessment from August 1990 stated that Iraq probably had available anthrax spores and botulinum toxin (BTx)(14) and that the BW applications of several other BW agents had been studied, although the status of the BW research and development programme was then unknown. Furthermore, the size of any stockpile was also unknown, but it was noted that only very small quantities of agent were required to produce significant effects.

29. The threat assessment in September 1990 contained further information on the types of BTx that were likely to be available. Iraq was considered to have developed three types of BTx for BW use. Iraq was also known to possess a fourth type and it was considered a possibility that it too had been developed for offensive use. The assessment of November 1990 reported that plague bacteria should be included in the BW threat list in addition to anthrax and BTx.

30. By December 1990, the UK assessed that Iraq had studied, or received information about a dozen agents in addition to anthrax and plague bacteria and BTx, including mycotoxins(15).

31. In 1990, there was no specific knowledge of the BW agent delivery systems, doctrine or tactics that Iraq might use. DIS considered a number of possible scenarios to examine how Iraq might mount a BW attack. It was concluded that although mounting a successful attack was likely to be difficult, Iraq potentially had a number of options open to it for the effective use of BW agents against allied assets on land and at sea.

UNSCOM

32. On 3 April 1991 the United Nations passed Resolution 687 which announced the forming of a Special Commission (UNSCOM). UNSCOM was tasked with carrying out immediate on-site inspection of Iraq’s biological, chemical and missile capabilities, based on Iraq’s declarations and the designation of any additional locations by UNSCOM itself. UNSCOM was given powers to inspect any site that was believed to relate to the production of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). UNSCOM was also empowered to oversee the destruction of equipment found at such sites.

33. In July 1995 the Iraqi government verbally, but reluctantly, admitted to UNSCOM that it had pursued an offensive BW programme and had produced quantities of BW agents including spores of an anthrax strain. In August of the same year the Iraqi government released to UNSCOM documents which proved that their offensive BW programme had been more advanced than previously supposed; not only had stocks of BW agents been produced, but these had been weaponised ready for use. Iraq claims that the programme included the weaponisation of anthrax spores, BTx and aflatoxin (a mycotoxin) in bombs and ballistic missile warheads. These were deployed to at least four different locations within Iraq in early January 1991. A 2,200 litre aircraft mounted spray tank to deliver anthrax spores was also reportedly under development. However, Iraq insists that much of its work on spray dissemination was unsuccessful or incomplete. It also maintains that all agents and weapons had been destroyed after the end of the Gulf conflict.

34. The following table has been constructed using this later knowledge. It shows that research on the properties of a number of other agents was also conducted. However, Iraq has consistently denied work on plague bacteria.

Table 1: BW agents in Iraq’s Research and Development Programme

1990/1991 DIS assessment of Iraq’s BW programme   Iraqi admissions to UNSCOM of BW programme by 1990/1991
Available to Iraq Anthrax spores
Botulinum toxin
Anthrax spores
Botulinum toxin
Aflatoxin
Probably available to Iraq Plague bacteria  
R&D conducted by Iraq Around 12 agents Trichothecene toxin
Clostridium perfringens toxin
Ricin
Enterovirus 70
Rotaviruses
Camel pox virus
C1 Botulinum & perfringens spores

BIOLOGICAL WARFARE DEFENCE

35. The assessment that UK Armed Forces would face a credible BW threat meant that effective defensive measures had to be put in place. Detailed information about the defensive system to protect UK troops from the threat of CW agents was published by the MOD in December 1999(16). Many of the aspects of BW defence are exactly the same as those for CW defence. Therefore, only those elements unique to BW defence are mentioned here in detail. Protection against a BW agent is achieved by combining a number of methods including detecting its presence, providing protection and implementing medical countermeasures.

36. Medical countermeasures. These are detailed in the MOD paper published on 28 October 1997(17). The report of the Fact-Finding Team, mentioned in paragraph 15, contains details of the way in which the anti-biological warfare agent immunisation programme was implemented during the Gulf conflict(18).

37. Detection. BW detection systems are designed to be deployed upwind of a target, so that they detect the BW agent release into the atmosphere and allow warning of the impending arrival of the agent cloud. This allows protection to be adopted, in the form of Individual Protective Equipment (IPE) and medical countermeasures, such as BATS. Even when a warning is given too late for troops to don their protective equipment it may still be beneficial in terms of early deployment of medical countermeasures in the event of a genuine attack.

38. Equipment. The Individual Protective Equipment (IPE) provided to UK Forces during the Gulf conflict gave a high level of protection against BW agents providing that their use was ordered in a timely manner. The S10 respirator provided protection against the inhalation of BW agents. In addition, Collective Protection (COLPRO), a facility that provided a toxic free area within a contained environment, provided effective protection within, for example, tents, vehicles and areas in ships, without the need for personnel to wear IPE.



DEVELOPMENT OF THE BW AGENT DETECTION CAPABILITY

Introduction

39. Although there was ongoing research prior to Operation GRANBY the UK, in common with other NATO countries, had no in-service BW agent detection system. In light of the BW threat that coalition forces were assessed to face, this was seen as a major vulnerability. To fill the capability gap, CBD Porton Down instituted measures that would allow UK forces to detect, identify and warn of the presence of the agents assessed as being a credible threat. These were anthrax and plague bacteria and BTx types A, B, E and F(19). Immediate steps were taken to develop some research systems directly from the laboratories at CBD Porton Down so that they could be deployed to the Gulf; the aim being to develop a limited BW warning system for high value, relatively static installations such as airfields and logistic areas. Two detection systems were developed in numbers sufficient to provide partial coverage of the Gulf theatre. The first was the Standby Assay Kit (SAK), an instrument capable of specifically identifying the BW threat agents. The second was the BDS which consisted of a 1 Tonne Land Rover equipped with instrumentation capable of detecting, identifying and warning of a BW attack. These two systems were eventually deployed together.

Role of CBD Porton Down

40. CBD Porton Down had, historically, prioritised their work to counter the BW threat emanating from the Soviet bloc with a significant emphasis on detection systems that would be appropriate to the European theatre of operations. The numbers of bacteria normally present in the Northern European atmosphere are so large that they preclude the use of techniques that non-specifically measure microbial load. Bacteria are present in numbers that are at best similar to, and at worst exceed by several orders of magnitude, levels of agent that might be anticipated in a BW attack.

41. However, it was assessed that this would not be the case for the harsh desert environment of northern Saudi Arabia, southern Iraq and Kuwait. A literature review revealed a single reference that indicated that bacterial concentrations might be very low. This meant that technologies unsuited for use in Europe could be reconsidered for Gulf deployment.

42. There were two initial approaches. Firstly, it was planned to identify BW agents from samples returned to the UK as part of the Sample Identification of Biological and Chemical Agent (SIBCA) procedure, the development of which had been accelerated(20).

43. Secondly, the SAK was developed to allow definitive agent identification in theatre. The initial intention was to issue the SAKs to medical centres at high value target sites for use by Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) medical technicians. The aim was to use the SAK to provide an early indication of BW use (before the results from SIBCA procedures were available) and to allow diagnosis in clinical samples. It was intended that samples of suspected agent would be transported from the area of initial attack or from contaminated personnel or equipment to the SAK facility. Due to the limited availability of consumables, it was intended to perform a routine test twice daily at each site at which the SAK was deployed, unless there were strong intelligence indications that a BW attack was imminent. By 29 August 1990 six SAKs were ready for deployment to the Gulf, which were capable of identifying anthrax bacteria and BTx. Operator training was complete by 10 September and three extra SAKs were produced by 4 November. By 8 November, the SAKs were still at CBD Porton Down awaiting deployment having had their capability extended to all of the BTx types that had been assessed as being a credible threat (types A, B, E and F). By 7 January 1991 the SAK could also identify plague bacteria and it had been decided to deploy the SAKs with the BDSs.

Development of the BDS

44. Throughout August 1990, options for providing a mobile BW detection system were being considered. It was intended that the detection system should give timely warning of a BW attack to personnel on high value sites, enable NBC staffs to warn other units downwind of the system’s location, and to decrease the time taken to get a SIBCA team to the site of possible BW agent contamination. In September 1990, a concept of use document was published for a BW detection system, which recommended that the following instruments should be assessed:

a. Aerosol Particle Monitoring System (APMS). It soon became clear that the only instrument capable of providing a very rapid warning of a BW attack would be a form of airborne particulate counting and sizing system. Several commercial systems were assessed but the APMS, which had been developed from a prototype that had been used in trials at CBD Porton Down, was the best. The APMS operated by continuously sampling the atmosphere and warning of an increase in the number of aerosol particles in a pre-determined size range. It was not designed to provide identification of BW agents, merely to indicate the presence of increased numbers of respirable particles, which are potentially indicative of a BW agent attack. Therefore, it could also alarm in the presence of other particles such as dust and sand.

b. Cyclone aerosol collector. For the positive identification of BW agents, it was necessary to perform tests on a sample of the atmosphere. The sample was obtained using a cyclone aerosol collector. It worked by using a pump to move air through the cyclone at a rate of 300-1000 litres per minute, where it was mixed with a fine mist of distilled, deionised water. Particles were caught in the mist and spiralled down the wall of the Cyclone. The resulting liquid was collected in a container. The device was set up so that approximately 10 millilitres (ml) of sample was collected in a 30 minute period. The sample was then used in the following confirmatory tests:

c. Biotrace monitor. On 24 August 1990, the Financial Times printed an article with details of the Biotrace. The manufacturer was marketing the device as a portable monitor for testing the bacteriological cleanliness of industrial kitchen work surfaces. It was realised that the device could be used as a BW agent monitor in the Gulf, because the levels of natural atmospheric bacteria in the region are low. Similar technology had been actively researched by the UK and US in the 1960s but had proved unsuitable for European environments. The monitor tests for the presence of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a chemical that is an energy source in all living cells. An enzyme in a reagent reacts with the ATP to produce light, which is then measured by a detector in the monitor. A digital readout indicates the amount of ATP detected, which corresponds to the amount of biological material present.

The device allows an estimation of the total sample ATP content and also the non-microbial ATP content, ie. that contained within living plant and animal cells, not bacteria. Subtraction of non-microbial ATP from the total ATP allows an estimation of the microbiological (bacterial) ATP content of the sample. The test only took approximately one minute to perform.

There was concern that some BW agents, such as anthrax spores or toxins would not be detected by the Biotrace. However, experiments showed that this was not the case and that the Biotrace should meet the required level of sensitivity.

d. Threshold device. The Threshold device is a commercial instrument obtained from the US and is based upon principles of enzyme immunoassay. This technique works by passing a sample through a detector probe that contains antibodies to the BW agent of interest. If the agent is present in the sample, it binds specifically to the antibody releasing another chemical, which can be detected by a change in pH (ie. a change in the acidity). The US had already selected this technology for a Bio-Chemical detector and personnel at CBD Porton Down were already familiar with it. By the time the Threshold device was deployed, it was able to monitor specifically for all the BW threat agents.

The Threshold device was used with positive and negative control samples, together with multiple test samples. A positive control was required to demonstrate that the reagents were intact. A negative control was required to demonstrate that positive results did not occur in the absence of agent or positive control. Tests at CBD Porton Down showed that while a test could be performed within 6-7 minutes of acquiring a sample, a higher degree of confidence could be placed in the result if each assay was re-read up to 4 times and each set of results compared. This meant that a primary warning could be given in 7 minutes and either reinforced or negated in a further 3 minutes.

e. Standby Assay Kit (SAK). The SAK was provided to enable definitive agent identification and was also based on the principle of a standard enzyme immunoassay. It was not capable of continuous operation and its processing time was approximately 3 hours. The SAK was very reliable in operation, but required some laboratory facilities if it was to be used effectively.

Relationship between SAK and Threshold device

45. The Threshold device allowed a rapid identification of any of the threat BW agents. The SAK provided a further confirmation of results from the Threshold device and could be used to either validate earlier findings or to investigate partial BDS alarms. The SAK was generally more sensitive than the Threshold device by a factor of 10 for both anthrax and plague bacteria, whilst the sensitivity for BTx was generally greater on the Threshold device. The SAK was also able to analyse samples from almost all sources, including those from the cyclone aerosol collector, soil, vegetation, water and animals.

46. By the time 1 FLU deployed to the Gulf, antibodies to all the BW threat agents had been developed. The assays for BTx types A and B were pooled, as were the assays for BTx types E and F. Both plague and anthrax bacteria were assayed individually. The positive controls for anthrax and plague bacteria consisted of killed micro-organisms. The positive control for BTx was provided at a concentration that was considered harmless.

Exercise Sandfly 1

47. In order to assess the suitability of the equipment and to gather information on the atmospheric conditions, it was necessary to trial the instruments in the Gulf region. Specifically, there was a need to determine what particle sizes were present in the atmosphere, to see if the atmosphere was sufficiently free from natural bacteria for the Biotrace monitor to be used and to establish whether the systems were sufficiently rugged to operate reliably outside the laboratory. The trial also enabled suitable instrument alarm criteria to be developed.

48. Exercise Sandfly 1 was carried out by staff from CBD Porton Down in September 1990 in the areas of Dhahran, Saudi Arabia and Muharraq, Bahrain. Measurements were made over 48 hours at each location.

49. It was found that the climate and conditions in the Gulf caused problems for the APMS and its associated computers. The atmosphere in the Gulf was relatively clean, with less than 50 particles per ml of air. However, for the APMS to function as a BW agent particle detector it needed to detect an increase of 1 particle per ml. The majority of particles in the background aerosol were very small. As a BW aerosol weapon was judged likely to have a larger average particle size, the APMS was adjusted to read only particles of this size. This reduced typical background concentrations to an acceptable 1 particle per ml or less. The APMS was therefore able to ignore most of the natural background particles and was able to function effectively as a first stage non-specific BW agent detector. After Exercise Sandfly 1 a new sampling head was added to improve the performance of the APMS in windy conditions. Improvements to the engineering were identified and the software was also simplified.

50. The Cyclone aerosol collector was trialled in the Gulf alongside other air sampling systems and it proved to be superior in that environment. However, it needed constant attention during the trial to allow manual correction for changes in temperature and humidity. The exercise prompted several modifications to optimise its performance in the Gulf environment. In particular, it was packaged into a single unit and was fitted with a fly-trap to prevent ingress of insects and vegetation, which would lead to false positive results.

51. The Biotrace system worked without flaw in the trials. It was found that it suffered much lower false positive detection rates than similar systems tested in earlier European trials. This was because the background microbial content of Gulf air was much lower than that which might be expected from a biological attack. The levels of non-microbial ATP were also found to be very low and the implication from this was that toxin weapons would also be detected. The conclusion was that the Biotrace would detect bacterial attacks and also toxin challenges. It was considered that the Biotrace would work as a cue for the Threshold device.

52. The Cyclone aerosol collector samples were retested on return to CBD Porton Down and also subjected to classical microbiological isolation techniques. These indicated that: ATP estimation could be used as a good indicator of bacteriological loading of a sample; and that ATP levels in such samples changed unpredictably on storage and shipment back to UK. The implication of the former was that the Biotrace would work well as a non-specific BW agent detector.

53. The SAK was trialled and functioned well. It was concluded that the SAK offered a reliable method of detecting the presence of BW agents with low false positive detection rates. Many samples were taken and used to check for possible interference with the SAK test. In particular, samples of sand were taken from the vicinity of airfields in the Gulf theatre. These samples, in addition to those from the Cyclone aerosol collector, all proved not to contain any material that gave rise to false positive detections, or to inhibit true positive detections.

54. The Threshold device was not trialled during Exercise Sandfly 1. However, confidence was high that the system would work well in the Gulf, based on work undertaken on samples bought back from the Gulf and its similar mode of operation to the SAK.

55. The report from Exercise Sandfly 1 concluded that the instruments tested, whilst falling short of a fully engineered BW detection system, could offer significant utility during Operation GRANBY. It confirmed the assessment made in the concept of use document that a package of equipment should be put together consisting of an APMS and a Cyclone aerosol collector to concentrate atmospheric aerosol. The Cyclone sample would then be used in the Biotrace, the Threshold device, and the SAK (if appropriate). It was recommended that preparations should begin for the deployment of a BW detection system and that factors such as funding, procurement, training and support should be addressed.

56. There was some confusion over the terminology used because the entire detection system was originally called the "Threshold" system. However, this was also the trademark name of the Threshold immunoassay device and so the official name of the detection system was changed to "Sand-Fly". Later, when 1 FLU was deployed, the vehicles were known as Biological Detection Systems (BDS).

Exercise Sandfly 2

57. It was proposed that a further trial should be performed to show that the measurements taken during Exercise Sandfly 1 were representative, to test the modified equipment, to train two RAMC laboratory technicians in the use of the equipment and to assess what training would be needed for a fully deployed unit.

58. Exercise Sandfly 2 took place over a continuous 48 hour sampling period in November 1990. Due to significant military activity going on in the surrounding area, the trial was restricted to Dhahran airbase. In addition to CBD Porton Down scientists, the OIC and Second-in-Command (2 I/C) of the future 1 FLU joined the exercise.

59. The APMS worked well. There was only one alarm that could not be explained by local overt activity. It was concluded that the APMS would be sensitive enough to detect disseminated toxins and strong bacterial attacks. It was recognised that natural particulates would cause it to give rise to false positive detections from time to time.

60. The Cyclone aerosol collector proved to be reliable in operation, although it was found that an ATP-free water supply would be necessary. It was also found that it would be necessary to position the Cyclone relative to the wind and adjust the pump speed in response to changes in temperature and relative humidity. The Biotrace worked well and it was found that the background ATP levels were highest during the noon to dusk period and low throughout the night and at dawn, the most probable time for a BW attack. The Threshold system showed false detections (positive and negative) in approximately 1% of assays. This figure was consistent with tests performed in the UK.

61. There was one false detection when an APMS alarm occurred along with a positive signal from the Threshold device and a negative (inhibited) Biotrace signal. The sample was visually contaminated with diesel exhaust and a vehicle engine had been running within 30 metres of the collection point during the alarm period. It was found that soot had blocked light generated in the Biotrace assay from reaching the detector in the Biotrace reader.

1 FLU commissioning

62. The origins of 1 FLU can be traced back to 4 September 1990, when two RAMC technicians were trained to perform the SAK test at CBD Porton Down. A further five personnel attended CBD Porton Down on 10/11 September 1990 for SAK training, including the future OIC 1 FLU. At the time, it was planned to assemble a small group of personnel to form an RAMC unit known as 1 Field Medical Laboratory Unit, detailed to operate the SAKs at incidents where BW agent use was suspected.

63. By December 1990 it was known that the BDS would be deployed to theatre. Planning was sufficiently advanced to make it necessary to identify and train personnel for deployment with 1 FLU. A letter was sent requesting that the future OIC and 2 I/C of 1 FLU be dispatched to CBD Porton Down as soon as possible to develop a training syllabus under the guidance of the Senior Military Officer at CBD Porton Down. It was planned to deploy nine teams, each with a 5 man crew. The pre-trained SAK operators were requested to attend CBD Porton Down from 13-21 December 1990 to join 1 FLU. On 5 December 1990 it was requested that the remaining non-RAMC personnel of 1 FLU were called up.

64. 1 FLU assembled together for the first time on 17 December 1990 at the Defence NBC Centre (DNBCC) at Winterbourne Gunner in Wiltshire. It consisted of 26 RAF personnel and 22 Army personnel. The small HQ element consisted of an acting Captain RAMC, a Staff Sergeant and a Sergeant. From the time of formation until Christmas, the 48 members of 1 FLU revised and practiced their general NBC skills at DNBCC. Between 2-9 January 1991 training turned to the use of the BDS. The training included laboratory work and then field exercises.

65. Each BDS team consisted of:

  • a commander responsible for command and local siting of the team;
  • a laboratory technician responsible for running the Biotrace and Threshold devices;
  • an instrument/electronic technician responsible for the running of the APMS;
  • a vehicle mechanic/driver responsible for the vehicle, generator and air conditioning units;
  • a radio operator/meteorologist responsible for communications and collection of meteorological information.

The teams were cross-trained to allow continuous operation of the BDS.

66. Work on the nine BDS vehicles, which were converted from 1 Tonne Land Rovers, commenced on 10 December 1990 and by 6 January 1991 the work had been completed. The vehicles were completely refitted by the CBD Porton Down Engineering Section which fitted them with the detection sub-systems, air conditioning, refrigeration and radios as well as the additional items required by the crews. All vehicles were fitted with Combat Net Radio (CNR). In total some 250,000 items of equipment and consumables were procured and installed in the vehicles. Over 75,000 vials of reagent were filled by CBD Porton Down staff and 11 APMS detectors were constructed or refurbished.

67. Once the BDS construction was complete a field exercise, known as Exercise Wild Boar, took place on the CBD Porton Down ranges during the period 6 to 8 January 1991. The exercise tested deployment drills and equipment operation by day andnight. Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) were also produced that addressed into and out of action procedures and systems operation.

Deployment

68. CBD Porton Down sent a signal stating that all personnel and equipment would deploy via the Air Mounting Centre (AMC) at South Cerney in Wiltshire at 1500Z(21) on 9 January 1991. The 1 FLU Post Operations Report (POR) states that the vehicles and their crews were deployed on 10 January 1991. The OIC recalled that 1 FLU departed from RAF Lyneham on 11 January 1991 and were accompanied by staff from DNBCC in order to oversee their entry into theatre.

69. On arrival in theatre, the elements of 1 FLU were initially deployed to high value, static installations such as airfields and logistic areas. These were:

1 team HQ British Forces Middle East (BFME) Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
2 teams Force Maintenance Area (FMA) Al Jubayl, Saudi Arabia
2 teams RAF Detachment (RAFDET) Tabuk, Saudi Arabia
2 teams RAFDET Muharraq, Bahrain
2 teams and HQ element RAFDET Dhahran, Saudi Arabia

70. The DNBCC team deployed to the Middle East over the period 11-21 January 1991. A scientist from CBD Porton Down moved to the Gulf on 12 January 1991 to provide technical support and to deliver additional stores plus consumable items requiring refrigeration. Because 42 days worth of consumables were dispatched which had to be refrigerated or frozen, storage problems occurred.

71. On 14 January 1991, a report was sent stating that the DNBCC/CBD team had completed briefing commanders and NBC staff at Dhahran, Tabuk and Al Jubayl in Saudi Arabia and Muharraq in Bahrain. A Staff Officer at the HQBFME NBC Cell had also been met and briefed. CBD Porton Down staff had completed delivery of the consumables to Dhahran, Al Jubayl and Muharraq by late on 14 January 1991. A pre-operations trial of all vehicles was then conducted. The equipment alarm statistics were checked against a Warning and Reporting Protocol that had been developed to ensure that the right balance had been struck between protection and the need to avoid unnecessary alarms.

72. Several false positive detections were generated during the pre-operations trial. In all cases, these were convincingly associated to external events; passing vehicles, aircraft or a general disturbance of sand in the area. As collateral information was available in all cases, it was felt that such false positive detections would not be reported as legitimate alarms when the system became operational. No alarms were registered that would have caused an NBC Black threat state(22) under the terms of the Warning and Reporting Protocols (see paragraph 78 below). 1 FLU was therefore declared to HQ BFME as operational on 17 January 1991.

73. The consumables for the Threshold device arrived late following the diversion and delay of an aircraft and this meant that crews were unable to practice use of the instrument during the pre-operations trial or before the onset of hostilities. They had to fall back on the SAK as the specific identification system until the consumables were delivered to 1 FLU on 21 January 1991. Local commanders were advised to deploy the BDSs as they were with the APMS, Biotrace and SAK instruments.



Unit mission

74. 1 FLU’s mission was to, "Deploy a strategic BW detection system to British Forces Middle East." It was tasked with providing a monitoring and early warning system in case of BW agent use in the UK area of operations.

75. The role of the BDS was to provide:

  • early warning of a possible BW aerosol attack;
  • confirmation that a BW attack was in progress and identification of the agents involved;
  • NBC staff with information to warn other units downwind of the BDS location;
  • a cue to the SIBCA process and consequently decrease the time taken to move SIBCA teams to the site of possible contamination.

76. There is no evidence that 1 FLU took blood samples. The OIC 1 FLU recalls that the unit was not even equipped with the equipment that would have been necessary to perform such a role.

NBC Procedures

77. 1 FLU was tasked by the HQBFME NBC Cell in Riyadh. Local control of the BDS teams was exercised by the local NBC staff. Initially, detachments had to rely on ASMA(23) and telephones for all communications requiring the attention of OIC 1 FLU. In Riyadh, the single BDS was deployed into King Khalid International (KKI) Airport and was required to report any alarms to the NBC cell and HQ BFME.

78. The exact positioning of the BDS was a matter of balancing the need to be upwind of the deployment site with the fact that this compromised its effectiveness to detect a covert attack near to the site. Following the detection of a BW agent, the procedure that would have been adopted was as follows:

a. The BDS crews first assessed any equipment alarms. The "Warning and Reporting Protocol" allowed for the graduated implementation of upward reporting (to the controlling NBC cell), local warning (to troops in the immediate vicinity of the BDS) and further reporting (from the NBC cell) in accordance with the prevailing BW threat level. The protocol has been reproduced below:

Table 2: Warning and Reporting Protocol

Cue       Response      
NBC Threat level APMS Biotrace Threshold SAK Inform NBC Cell Local Warning Area Warning
Low            
      Delayed    
    Delayed    
  Immediate
Medium          
      Delayed  
    Immediate  
  Immediate
High      
      Immediate
    Immediate
  Immediate

b. Therefore, the declaration of a positive detection by a BDS crew was procedural, using the protocol, rather than being based solely on instrument indications. Depending on the NBC alert state and collateral information, BW attack warnings could result from a 1 or 2-system (rather than the ideal 3-system; APMS, Biotrace and Threshold) detection. The crews of the BDS vehicles were instructed not to attempt any prediction using the data they had obtained. They were instructed to restrict their activities to continued analysis of the atmosphere so that the maximum amount of information was available.

c. If appropriate, the local NBC Cell receiving the report from the BDS vehicle would have carried out an initial assessment of the downwind hazard area and ensured that an alert was passed to all units in the area. The results of this analysis would have then been presented to the local Commander and relayed through their Warning and Reporting chain. The HQ BFME NBC Cell would have reviewed the local analysis and examined the wider implications of the attack, such as the need for warnings and countermeasures.

Sampling regime

79. The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) developed for the BDS recommended that sampling only took place when wind speeds were lower than 10 metres per second. This was because mounting a BW attack above these speeds was considered to be effectively impossible. Monitoring at night was undertaken more frequently because the weather conditions were often neutral or stable(24) when compared to daytime, better for mounting a BW attack. As the following details show, the Cyclone, Biotrace and Threshold device were often run on a 30 minute sampling regime:

Table 3: Standard Operating Procedures used by the BDS

Stability Category NBC Level APMS Biotrace Threshold
Unstable (Night) Med/Low Cont 30 min (60 min) 30 min (60 min)
  High Cont 15 min (30 min) 30 min (60 min)
Stable (Night) Med/Low Cont 40 min (80 min) 40 min (80 min)
  High Cont 15 min (30 min) 40 min (80 min)
Stable (Day) Med/Low Cont 45 min (90 min) 90 min (180 min)
  High Cont 15 min (30 min) 90 min (180 min)
Unstable (Day) BDS Not Sampling      

Notes:

a. An APMS alarm resulted in a immediate Biotrace test which, if positive, resulted in an immediate Threshold test.

b. Figures in brackets were used when ‘consumable minimise’ was ordered. When this was the case and BDSs were deployed in pairs, tests were staggered to achieve maximum coverage.

80. Details of the samples taken were recorded by the BDS crews on pre-printed log sheets to give the following information: date, unit, location, operator details, sample identifier, time of sample collection, volume of sample, air temperature, relative humidity and wind direction. The outputs from the APMS and Threshold instruments were recorded by the system computers onto floppy and hard disks. Output from the Biotrace was recorded manually on a pre-printed log sheet. Other equipment alarms were annotated on these sheets. The number of extant log sheets from each team are highly variable. Those from teams A, B, D and G are fairly comprehensive, while those from teams C, E, F and H are not. There are only two extant log sheets from Team I at Muharraq which were for the night of 16-17 January 1991.

81. After testing, the routine was for the Cyclone sample to be refrigerated for at least 24 hours before disposal. This was to allow the crews to re-test the material if required and to retain a baseline sample in the event of a positive detection in the subsequent 24 hour period. Logistical constraints made it impractical to store or retain samples beyond this time, or to return them to the UK on a routine basis.

Tasks undertaken

82. After 1 FLU became operational, the BDS Teams settled into a routine of sampling. This continued throughout the Gulf conflict. Several teams experienced problems with items of equipment however, by 20 January 1991, eight of the nine vehicles were fully operational. The ninth vehicle based at Al Jubayl was deficient one Biotrace system. This was replaced directly from the UK. The FMA NBC Cell log shows that a message was sent to OIC 1 FLU at 0057 (local time) on 19 January 1991 requesting a new Biotrace unit. There was also a minor mechanical fault with the Cyclone aerosol collector in one BDS team at Al Jubayl, but this was subsequently repaired.

83. Prior to the ground war, during the latter part of January and early February, it was decided to relocate six of the teams away from the airfields and the port area of Al Jubayl. They were moved to forward locations in Saudi Arabia in support of 1(UK) Armoured Division as it prepared to advance into Iraq and Kuwait. They continued their sampling at those locations in order to detect any BW attacks on the assembled Forces.

84. On 1 February 1991, Team I at Muharraq moved forward to 1(UK) Armoured Division. The warning order to move the teams from Tabuk and Dhahran to 1 (UK) Armoured Division was sent on 19 February 1991. The team at Dhahran was told not to move before 23 February 1991 and the team at Tabuk was told not to move before 24 February 1991. A forward base at Al Qaysumah airhead in Saudi Arabia was established and the teams then travelled to the Forward Force Maintenance Area (FFMA) by road. One of the BDS crews was instructed to remain in the Al Qaysumah area with the 1 Aeromedevac Squadron RAF, while the others were instructed to move into the 1(UK) Armoured Division area. The HQ element of 1 FLU was moved to Riyadh on or after the 27 January 1991.

85. From the existing BDS log sheets and other sources it has been possible to reconstruct the minimum times that the teams spent at each location. These are as follows:(25)

Table 4: Dates and Locations of BDS Teams

Team Time and dates Location
A 0130 18 January – 0530 20 January 1991 Al Jubayl beach
  1730 20 January – 0630 29 January 1991 FFMA
  1730 17 February – 0530 24 February 1991 Dhahran
B 1900 16 January – 1900 25 February 1991 KKI Airport Riyadh
C 2000 16 January – 0700 21 January 1991 RAFDET Dhahran
D 2010 15 January – 2335 19 February 1991 Dhahran
  1740 25 February – 2305 28 February 1991 Al Qaysumah
E 2020 17 January – 0940 27 January 1991 RAFDET Tabuk
F 1830 17 January – 0830 30 January 1991 RAFDET Tabuk
G 1116 13 January – 0600 26 February 1991 Muharraq
H 2030 14 January – 2340 17 January 1991 33 Field Hospital Al Jubayl
  2100 18 January – 2300 27 February 1991 FMA NBC Cell Al Jubayl
I 13-24 January 1991 Muharraq

86. By the time the BDSs deployed forward, their role had expanded. In addition to routine sampling they were working in close liaison with the FUCHS teams that had been deployed to the Gulf. The FUCHS teams(26) provided a CW detection capability and also undertook SIBCA sampling. A former member of the HQBFME NBC Cell recalled that it was common practice for the Cell to order a BDS team, a FUCHS Team, or both, to confirm any incident where CBW agents may have been used. One documented example of this occurred on 24 February 1991, when the US Army were initially concerned that a detection of anthrax bacteria had occurred. 1 FLU became involved in this incident, which has already been reported in depth in the MOD paper "Dead Animals During the Gulf Conflict"(27). Although it is believed that 1 FLU attended several such incidents, there is no extant documentary evidence.

87. By 25 February 1991, all 9 BDS teams were fully operational; five teams were forward with 1 (UK) Armoured Division and were ready to move following the advance of the armour and infantry. Only the team at Muharraq did not have an operable APMS. As the land battle progressed, three of the forward teams deployed and moved with Royal Signals Ptarmigan Units(28). This allowed direct communication with HQ 1 FLU in Riyadh. Two of these teams were eventually located to the West and North West of Kuwait City. There is no indication of further equipment failures from this point until the end of the deployment.

88. A CBD Porton Down team accompanied a BDS resupply run on 22 February to 1 March 1991. This included a complete resupply of consumables, with a further 75,000 vials of reagents. The main aim of the visit was to resolve outstanding technical problems and also to advise on the local repair of the BDS equipment.

89. At the cessation of hostilities on 28 February 1991, 5 BDS teams were in Kuwait. On 6 March 1991, the forward base was moved to Ali Al Salem airbase in Kuwait to provide support for the teams that had followed the push into Kuwait. The teams concentrated here to await being called forward to any incident or suspected discovery of BW agents in Kuwait and Southern Iraq. On 12 March 1991, the 4 teams that had remained in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain returned to the UK along with their vehicles and equipment. The remaining 5 teams returned to the MOD’s airfield at Boscombe Down from Ali Al Salem on 26 March 1991.

90. After 1 FLU returned to the UK, consideration was given to what to do with the BDSs. It was proposed that all but two of the vehicles should be dismantled, and the detection elements stored. It was proposed that the remaining two vehicles would act as test beds for system enhancements and for use at short notice. Another option that was considered was that all of the vehicles should remain in service, so that they could be deployed in the future. However, it was realised that all the equipment would probably be technologically outdated within 2 years. Furthermore, the BDS equipment configuration would probably be of little use outside the Middle East and probably could not be deployed in Central Europe due to the high background bacteria levels. It was recommended that at least one BDS vehicle was retained for use in future trials and as a demonstration vehicle. This is what eventually happened and the vehicle is now stored at CBD Porton Down.

Conclusions

91. 1 FLU proved that it is possible to use delicate, sophisticated laboratory equipment along with extremely specific and sensitive reagents in a hostile environment that is subject to considerable variations in temperature. There was confidence that had BW agents been used against Allied Forces, 1 FLU had the capability to detect them and provide an effective early warning system. The BDS vehicles proved to be much more reliable in operation than could have been anticipated, given the way such laboratory equipment was treated during ground operations. The APMS performed with far fewer problems than was anticipated. The instruments did alarm on a number of occasions, but these were associated either with recognisable local activity that was generating dust or with adverse weather conditions such as sandstorms or mists.

92. The Cylcone proved remarkably rugged. The Biotrace instrument and reagents also performed outstandingly well; this was due in the main to the scientific training of the Laboratory Technicians, who appreciated the need for microbiological cleanliness in the system. The Threshold device worked well provided the crews adhered to the SOPs and the vehicle’s air conditioning was functioning correctly. The SAK was operated successfully.

ALLEGED DETECTIONS

Muharraq detection on 20 January 1991

93. 1 FLU reported no confirmed detections of BW agents. However, on 20 January 1991 BDS Team I, operating off base in the vicinity of Muharraq, Bahrain, experienced an anomalous detection on their Biotrace monitor. There are no log sheets remaining for this team for this period; the only documentation still in existence regarding the incident consists of letters, signals and a laboratory note book from CBD Porton Down.

94. In the early hours of 20 January 1991, a positive result occurred on the Biotrace detector, indicating an abnormally high level of ATP. The high Biotrace result was not supported by a high reading on the APMS. A SAK test indicated that the anomaly was not caused by any of the BW threat agents.

95. A signal message from the time summarises what happened and the actions that were taken. It has been declassified and is reproduced below:

"201700Z JAN 91
FM RAFDET MUHARRAQ
TO AHQ RIYADH
HQBFME RIYADH
JHQ HIGH WYCOMBE
CDE PORTON
SECRET UK/US EYES ONLY

FOR NBC CELLS. SUBJECT IS SUSPECTED DETECTION OF UNKNOWN BIOLOGICAL/BACTERIAL SUBSTANCE AS A RESULT OF DEPLOYMENT OF OFF BASE BDS TEAM. AT 200045Z JAN 91 BDS TEAM 2 DETECTED THE PRESENCE OF A SUBSTANCE AND INITIATED LOCAL NBC BLACK CONDITIONS FOR A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME. THE SUBSTANCE WAS INITIALLY SAMPLED BY CYCLONE AND WAS FURTHER SUBJECTED TO BIO-TRACE AND SAKS TESTING, WHICH CONFIRMED A PRESENCE. THE TEAM TOOK SAMPLES (9 IN TOTAL) OVER A TWO AND A HALF HOUR PERIOD. ON RETURN TO MAIN BASE LOCN, SPECIALIST STAFFS WERE CONSULTED BY TEAM AT DAHZ [Dhahran] AND ADVISED THAT SAMPLES COULD BE SIGNIFICANT AS THEY WERE UNIDENTIFIABLE AT THIS LEVEL AND REQUIRED FURTHER ANALYSIS BY CDE PORTON DOWN. DAHZ FLU SPECIALIST STAFF CONTACTED NBC CELL MUHZ [Muharraq] AND REQUESTED INITIATION OF SIBCA SYSTEM TO RECOVER SAMPLES TO CDE PORTON DOWN. SAMPLES WERE PACKED I.A.W. [in accordance with] SIBCA DIRECTIVE AND HANDED TO [2 i/c 1 FLU] (DAHZ) FLU FOR ESCORT. ESCORT AND SAMPLES DESPATCHED BY AIR FROM MUHZ TO BZN [RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, England] VIA RIYADH AT 201315Z JAN 91. NO NBC REPORTING ACTION WAS TAKEN BY MUHZ AS SPECIALIST BDS STAFF ADVISED THAT WAS NOT A ‘B’ [BW agent] ATTACK BUT WAS SOMETHING WORTH FURTHER INVESTIGATION/ANALYSIS. A SIBCA INFORMATION SHEET WAS FILLED IN, WAS DESPATCHED WITH SAMPLES AND A COPY WAS MADE FOR NCB [sic] CELL MUHZ. IT MUST BE NOTED THAT AMPS [sic] DID NOT ALARM."

96. The sentence, "THE SUBSTANCE WAS INITIALLY SAMPLED BY CYCLONE AND WAS FURTHER SUBJECTED TO BIO-TRACE AND SAKS TESTING, WHICH CONFIRMED A PRESENCE," means that the Biotrace monitor confirmed the presence of a biological substance. It is clear that the SAK test was negative because the substance remained unidentified. If the SAK test had proved positive, the signal message would have stated that the substance had been positively identified as one of the BW threat agents.

97. The incident occurred at a time when the NBC threat was assessed as being medium; US Central Command (CENTCOM) had issued SCUD missile alerts within the previous few hours at Dhahran (about 40km away) and Iraqi Special Force troops were reported to have landed on the shore of Saudi Arabia in the Al Jubayl area. A Joint Headquarters ASMA message timed at 0104Z on 20 January 1991 stated that:

"MARCENT [US Marine Forces Central Command] reports possible Iraqi SF [Special Forces] activity in the Al Jubayl area. Inflatable boats were discovered on a beach and a new RPG7 [Rocket Propelled Grenade] was found by a patrol."

98. Although the Warning and Reporting protocol states that only a local warning should have ensued, there was additional collateral information. Therefore, the local NBC unit contacted the detachment commander who was located in Dhahran and although it was not believed that the incident was a genuine BW attack, SIBCA proceedings were instituted. Initially, the NBC cell at HQ BFME were not informed of the decision to institute SIBCA proceedings. When the HQBFME NBC Cell found out, it was decided to halt the SIBCA proceedings because:

  • The high Biotrace reading was not supported by positive detections on the APMS or SAK;
  • There was no other evidence of a BW attack elsewhere in Bahrain (either casualties or detection by the second BDS);
  • Some of the original collateral evidence was suspect;
  • The NBC cell in Bahrain had suggested that there had been a particularly low tide in Bahrain on the night of the 20 January – kelp (a type of seaweed) had been uncovered and biological material may have been generated from them as a result of a strong onshore breeze, causing the Biotrace to alarm.

99. The 2 I/C 1 FLU had been sent from Muharraq to Riyadh with nine samples in a SIBCA container for onward transmission to CBD Porton Down and was intending to fly to the UK to deliver them. After the SIBCA alert was cancelled, the samples were instead transferred to a CBD Porton Down scientist and returned in slower time for further evaluation.

CBD Porton Down testing

100. Analysis of the samples was given high priority when they arrived at CBD Porton Down. The original laboratory notebook is still in existence and contains details of the samples and the tests subsequently carried out. The notebook shows that the samples arrived at CBD Porton Down at 1445 on 21 January 1991. The nine containers were opened and all tested negative with a chemical agent monitor (CAM).

101. Tests were then performed to identify the presence of any of the BW threat agents, ie. anthrax and plague bacteria, and BTx types A, B, E and F. The samples were tested with a stain known as McFadyeans, which assists in the indentification of anthrax. The test indicated the presence of bacteria, although it was not anthrax.

102. A separate test was then performed whereby a part of each sample was added to four different growth media. Some of these tests also indicated the presence of bacteria. The laboratory notebook reads:

"As BAB2 [one of the four growth media] is used for [Y-pestis (original crossed through)] growth. These colonies were examined by API rapids and API 20 (24 hours)."

103. Y-pestis is the taxonomic name for the organism that causes plague. As BAB2 is a media on which plague bacteria can grow, it is clear that there was concern that the bacteria may have been plague. Analytical Profile Index (API) tests were then performed, which were capable of identifying positively the bacteria that were present. The API test confirmed that plague bacteria were not present and identified the organism as a Pseudomonas species. These are very common bacteria and it is not surprising that they were found in the samples.

104. A part of each sample was also subjected to another test known as Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA), which operates on similar principles to the SAK test. The notebook shows that six different tests were performed on each of the nine samples. The BW agents that were tested for cannot be identified from the notebook because the corner of the page has been torn. However, the scientist who performed the ELISA tests was contacted. The scientist was able to confirm that the six tests were for the BW threat agents, ie. anthrax and plague bacteria and BTx types A, B, E and F. The results section is still intact and shows that all of the tests were negative.

105. A test was also performed to assess the levels of ATP in the samples. The test confirmed the Biotrace results reported by Team I in Muharraq, ie. that high levels of ATP, predominantly non-microbial ATP, were present in the samples. A graphical representation of the results is shown below:

Graph 1: CBD Porton Down’s Biotrace Results



998 fig 1


106. In summary, the tests undertaken at CBD Porton Down confirmed that the samples contained high levels of non-microbial ATP. Bacterial culture and specific immunological tests proved that none of the nine samples contained anthrax or plague bacteria or BTx types A, B, E and F. No further tests were conducted and the remaining part of all nine samples was destroyed after the analysis was completed.

Discussion

107. The Biotrace results show that BDS team I at Muharraq measured high levels of non-microbial and microbial ATP for several hours, before returning to normal. These results were confirmed at CBD Porton Down. The possible causes for these results are discussed below.

108. A BW attack with anthrax or plague bacteria or BTx types A, B, E and F can be excluded because specific tests for these agents were conducted by the BDS team and CBD Porton Down and proved negative. An attack with a different bacterial BW agent can also be excluded because predominantly non-microbial ATP was present in the sample. Furthermore, the API tests at CBD Porton Down would have identified any other bacterial BW agents present in the sample. Therefore, the only type of BW agent that could have caused the results would be an unpurified toxin or virus agent. The intelligence information indicated that Iraq had only weaponised toxin agents and so it was considered possible that a toxin agent may have been present in the samples.

109. The then Superintendent of the Detection and Aerosol Division at CBD Porton Down wrote a letter regarding this detection. It supported the use of SIBCA procedures in this instance because it would not have been sensible to assume that the detection was harmless without further confirmatory tests. The letter stated:

"The Biotrace device in one of the BDS vehicles consistently gave readings more than 200 times above background for over an hour (before returning to normal). Such circumstances are highly unusual but typical of a challenge with an unknown agent."

The letter concluded that:

"…we have yet to demonstrate that the returned sample was NOT a BW challenge. Whilst the strength of the signal measured on Biotrace at CDE is considerably less than that measured in the Gulf, the result is still 10 times above the normal background."

110. It would seem then, that the levels measured by the BDS team at Muharraq were even higher than those subsequently measured at CBD Porton Down. This is not surprising; it was noted during Exercise Sandfly 1 that a sample and measurements performed upon it could change with time.

111. In February 1998, CBD Porton Down were asked to look again at the suggestions that a toxin may have been present in the samples from Muharraq and replied that:

"We are as confident as we can be that the alarm was not caused by anthrax, plague or BTx. Additionally, the details of the alarm are not consistent with the presence of Agent 15, which is a chemical agent. However, the presence of aflatoxin (or, more precisely, ATP associated with the production of aflatoxin) or of any other agent of biological origin cannot be totally ruled out."

112. Others have suggested that exposure to aflatoxin occurred during the Gulf conflict. A scenario whereby the events on 19 January 1991 at Al Jubayl were caused by an aircraft disseminating a toxin agent (trichothecene or aflatoxin) has already been published on the internet by Dr J B Tucker. He directs the Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Project at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies(29). This suggestion is repeated in a book entitled, "Gassed in the Gulf".(30)

A toxin or virus attack?

113. Several pieces of evidence point away from the incident at Muharraq being linked to an attack with a BW toxin or virus agent. BDS Team I detected increased levels of a biological substance for several hours, before the levels decreased to normal. This profile is not typical of a BW agent attack, where a single release would lead to the detection event lasting for a much shorter period.

114. Team I’s APMS did not alarm. This means that either the biological particles detected by the Biotrace were present in numbers too low to cause an alarm or they were outside the size range that the APMS was set to detect. The APMS was set to detect particles of the size expected during a BW agent attack. Therefore, had this incident been a genuine BW attack, it follows that any agent must have been present in very low concentrations that did not cause an alarm.

115. In summary, low concentrations of a biological material were detected for several hours at Muharraq. It follows that for this detection to be a BW attack, the agent would either have had to have been released in small amounts over a prolonged period near to BDS Team I, or be part of a massive, but dilute cloud of agent that took several hours to pass over Muharraq.

116. There is no evidence whatsoever of any means of delivery of a BW agent to Muharraq. There were no reports of SCUD missile attacks in the area at the time. There is a report of Iraqi Special Forces activity, however this was further up the coast of Saudi Arabia, in the area of Al Jubayl. There is also reason to doubt the validity of this report; one of the reasons that the HQBFME NBC Cell cancelled the SIBCA proceedings was that the collateral evidence was suspect.

117. There were two morbidity reporting systems in operation during the Gulf conflict. These were used to detect the incidence of illness.

a. CBD Porton Down designed the first as a method of identifying the use of CBW agents. Its advantage was that it was capable of detecting the use of CBW agents other than those for which dedicated monitors were available, because any unusual patterns of illness would have been identified.

b. The second was known as the Disease and Non-Battle Injury (DNBI) reporting system. It covered the Force Maintenance Area (FMA) and 1 (UK) Armoured Division area. Each unit or camp was asked to report all new cases of illnesses daily under seven different medical headings. The reports were then entered into a database at the HQ FMA Medical Cell.

The only records in existence for Muharraq are from the CBD Porton Down morbidity reporting system. They show that there were no unusual occurrences of illness in Muharraq on or after 20 January 1991. If a BW agent had been used, many casualties would have been expected from the civilian population and unprotected Armed Forces personnel. This indicates that a release of BW agent did not occur.

118. Finally, BDS Teams G and I were at Muharraq at the time of the incident. Only Team I, operating off base, experienced a Biotrace alarm. Although the log sheets for Team I no longer exist, those from Team G do. Team G’s log sheets are annotated ‘Muharraq internal’, which presumably means that they were located on the airfield. Team G’s log sheets cover the period from 1810 (local) on 19 January 1991 to 0510 (local) on 20 January 1991 and show that all the Biotrace results are normal.

119. In conclusion, the only scenarios in which the incident at Muharraq could have arisen from a BW toxin or viral agent attack are:

a. the prolonged release of small amounts of an agent in the vicinity of BDS Team I;

b. a massive, but dilute, cloud of BW agent passing over Muharraq for several hours.

The former is not a credible scenario for attack with a BW agent. There is absolutely no evidence for the latter; in particular there were no reported casualties, which would have been expected if a BW agent had been used.

WHAT CAUSED THE DETECTION?

Kelp beds

120. If a BW agent did not cause the detection at Muharraq, what was it caused by? At the time of the incident, the NBC cell in Bahrain had suggested that there had been a particularly low tide in Bahrain on the night of the 20 January 1991. It was thought that kelp (a type of seaweed) may have been uncovered and biological material may have been generated as a result of a strong onshore breeze.

121. CBD Porton Down obtained data on low tides at Bahrain. Readings at Bahrain yacht club were as follows. All times are local times.

Table 6: Tides at Muharraq from 18 – 22 January 1991

  Low tide High tide Low tide High tide
19 January 1991 0208 0.38m 0748 0.85m 1608 0.33m 2107 0.68m
20 January 1991 0238 0.37m 0827 0.84m 1630 0.34m 2109 0.69m
21 January 1991 0313 0.36m 0908 0.82m 1618 0.34m 2147 0.70m
22 January 1991 0355 0.35m 0953 0.77m 1632 0.33m 2233 0.70m

122. Graph 1 at paragraph 105, which relates to the incident shows that the team detected the presence of a substance at 0315 (local) on 20 January 1991. This was just after low tide. It is therefore possible that kelp was uncovered and that some biological material became airborne. It is also possible that this was subsequently detected by the BDS. The BDS log sheets show that the wind at ‘Muharraq internal’ was NNW on the early hours of 20 January 1991. As can be seen from the map at Annex E, an onshore breeze was blowing toward the BDS at Muharraq, which supports the kelp hypothesis. However, there were no similar detections in the days that followed when there were even lower tides.

Another possible explanation

123. The existing BDS log sheets show that another anomalous detection occurred on a Biotrace monitor. On 24 February 1991, BDS Team G, also at Muharraq, detected high levels of a substance with a similar ATP profile to that detected by Team I on 20 January 1991. The first detection occurred at 2010 (local) and the log sheet has been annotated with the word "Panic!" There are indictaions that the APMS was unserviceable at this time, but a Threshold test would have been performed which, as there are no annotations to the log sheet, was presumably negative. A graphical representation of the detection is as follows:

Graph 2: Results of Biotrace for Muharraq on 24 – 25 February 1991 124. It appears that this detection did not cause much concern outside the BDS team, presumably because the NBC threat state was low and the Warning and Reporting protocol did not require the NBC Cell to distribute a warning. Indeed, two of the crew members who responded to the questionnaire for this review did not recall any detections at all. There is no mention of this detection in CBD Porton Down’s Operation GRANBY files. As with the detection on 20 January 1991, there is no indication of any means of delivery of a BW agent and no unusual morbidity was reported following this detection. Once again, there is no evidence that this detection was related to a BW attack.

125. Several members of 1 FLU have reported that other detections occurred on the Biotrace monitor. In particular, one recalls a false positive detection in Dhahran. As with the detection at Muharraq, there were no unusual readings on the APMS and testsusing the Threshold were negative. The problem was traced to a tent that the team had taped to the side of the vehicle. The tent had been in storage for several months and had become wet. The material had proved an ideal breeding ground for fungal spores or bacteria and these had been detected by the Biotrace. Some of the other members of the team became worried, but were reassured when the Cyclone aerosol collector was moved upwind from the tent and the readings returned to normal. The tent was later replaced with a new one and there were no further problems.

126. Therefore, it is possible that the detections at Muharraq on 20 January and 24 February 1991 were caused by a similar natural source of fungi or bacteria, which was not identified at the time. The evidence points toward both of the detections being caused by harmless biological material from a natural source.

Link to Al Jubayl

127. The hypothesis that a toxin was released at Al Jubayl during the early hours of the 19 January 1991 and then drifted to Muharraq where it was responsible for the detection on 20 January 1991 is considered to be without foundation, for the following reasons.

128. The meteorological reports confirm that an agent released at Al Jubayl could not have drifted to Muharraq. The predominant winds in the Gulf are NW, which would indicate that an agent released at Al Jubayl may be capable of travelling to Muharraq (see map at Annex F). However, data obtained from the Meteorological Office show that in the early hours of 19 January 1991, winds at low level were southerly and remained so for approximately 12 hours. They were then light and variable in direction until the morning of the 21 January 1991. Any agent released at Al Jubayl would therefore have been blown northwards towards Iraq, before being becalmed. These data show that the anomolous detection at Muharraq cannot be related to any events at Al Jubayl on 19 January 1991.

129. The morbidity reports from CBD Porton Down show that there were 10 cases of jaundice reported at Blackadder Lines, Al Jubayl, from the 22 January 1991. The report states:

"Cases of jaundice were reported from Blackadder lines on 22 January (5), 23 January (1), 24 January (3), 25 January (Nil), 26 January (1) and 27 January (Nil). No cases of jaundice were reported from Blackadder lines from 9 January 1991 or after 27 January 1991. Single cases of jaundice occurred at RAF Tabuk on 30 December 1990 and 1 February 1991."

130. Although these cases of jaundice at Al Jubayl were not classed as significant at the time, an assessment has been made to establish whether they could have been caused by exposure to a BW agent, particularly aflatoxin, on or after 19 January 1991. It is concluded that they could not, for the following reasons:

  • Jaundice is caused by the onset of hepatitis, usually over a period of weeks to months;
  • There is no evidence to suggest that the inhalation of an aerosolised aflatoxin mixture can cause jaundice or hepatitis in the period of several days after an exposure, although it should be noted that this conclusion is drawn from a small data set;
  • There is no evidence that the Medical Officer at Blackadder lines reported this unusual cluster of cases to a higher authority.

Furthermore, the figures from CBD Porton Down do not tally with the DNBI morbidity reports from Blackadder lines for the same period. The Operation GRANBY Master Casualty List has also been checked and does not tally with the CBD Porton Down morbidity reports. Only six cases of hepatitis and one of jaundice were reported throughout the entire Gulf conflict. Only one case of hepatitis was reported during the period 22 – 27 January 1991. This discrepancy may be because the morbidity reporting systems collected symptoms not diagnoses, but there is some doubt on the authenticity of the cases of jaundice. Further information on the toxic properties of aflatoxin can be found at Annex D.

Conclusion

131. The only scenarios where the Muharraq detection on 20 January 1991 could have been a BW attack would be the prolonged release of small amounts of BW agent in the vicinity of BDS Team I, or a massive, but dilute cloud of agent released some distance away and then passing over Muharraq. There is absolutely no collateral evidence for either of these other than the Biotrace results. The evidence points strongly to a natural source of biological material being the cause of the detection.

Other suggested BW agent detections

132. During the course of this review, several individuals expressed concern that positive detections for BW agents occurred. Many recalled Biotrace alarms. The APMS was also a frequent source of false positive detections although it was often obvious what had caused the alarm, sources of which included mist, vapour trails and cigarette smoke. Several members of 1 FLU suggested that there were occassions when anthrax bacteria and BTx were detected using the specific detection systems, ie. Threshold and SAK, although further tests often proved negative. A common feature of these suggestions is that the NBC Cells stated that these results were due to petro-chemicals present in the air. None of these suggestions could be correlated to the alarm log (Annex C), which has been compiled from the extant BDS log sheets, because the individuals could not recall the time and date of the detections. The majority of the individuals do not believe that the detections were genuine, because there were no casualties displaying symptoms of exposure to BW agent.

133. However, it is important to explain how these false detections may have occurred. The ways in which false detections could have occurred on each item of equipment are detailed below:

a. APMS. The APMS was a particle detector that was programmed to detect particles in a particular size range. Therefore, any activity that increased the number of airborne particles in this size range could have caused a false positive detection. Typical examples include vehicle activity and sand storms.

b. Biotrace. The Biotrace was non-specific and, as already mentioned, could have given a false positive result if fungi or bacteria were present in the atmosphere. Plant spores could also have caused a false positive result. Although these were not common in the Gulf there is some evidence, which has already been mentioned, that they caused several false positive results. A major operator consideration for the Biotrace was the provision of an ATP-free water supply. Operators were instructed to obtain medical grade irrigation water for operation. Therefore, if the water was not of this quality and contained biological material, the Biotrace may have given a false positive result.

c. Threshold. The Threshold required the most skill and practice to ensure credible results were obtained. The main problem was that with the BTx control samples, the difference in electronic signals produced by the positive control and the negative control was relatively small. This occurred because the positive controls degraded upon extended storage. However, even with the degradation in performance the positive control was still valid. In addition, safety considerations dictated that the positive controls had to be sufficiently weak so that if accidental ingestion occurred a fatal illness would not ensue.

Furthermore, some crews experienced difficulties with the BTx assays, which were proved to be due to operators failing to wash the Threshold devices sufficiently prior to reading. Using a fresh batch of reagents from the UK and more frequent washing prior to reading eventually solved the problem. It was also not appreciated that extremes of temperature at night (just above freezing in some instances) would affect the performance of the Threshold. This caused the team at Tabuk problems and it was necessary to remove the Threshold from the BDS to a warmer environment, possibly to a building on the airfield.

These factors caused initial problems with false results and may be the source of many of the suggestions of false positive detections. As previously mentioned, even in ideal conditions, the normal false detection rates were approximately 1%.

e. SAK. The SAK used the same controls as the Threshold and was therefore subject to the same problems. However, overall the SAK was a much more robust test because it incorporated wash cycles into the assay, which allowed for the removal of some of the compounds that interfere with the test.

Conclusion

134. It was often realised by those involved at the time that the APMS and Biotrace could alarm in the presence of natural particles and biological material. It is understandable that a positive result on a specific detection system would cause concern to the members of 1 FLU. However, these instruments were not infallible and were prone to problems with the control samples in the early stages of the deployment. This may have been the cause of many of the false positive detections. There is no evidence to suggest that petroleum products could have caused false positive reactions in these tests.

135. In summary, there is no evidence that any of the suggested detections resulted from BW agents. The lack of any morbidity correlating to BW agents underlines this conclusion.

18 May 2000

Annex A

Reproduction from The Independent newspaper dated 27 February 1997

The following is a reproduction of the relevant text from an article, entitled "Sick Gulf veteran who broke silence," that appeared in The Independent on 27 February 1997.

"A seriously ill Gulf veteran said last night that he had been part of a secret unit working for government scientists on chemical and biological experiments.

Sergeant Angus Parker, 37, worked as a technician for the 1st Field Laboratory Unit, reporting to scientists from Porton Down, the Government’s secret chemical and biological defence establishment in Wiltshire.

Sgt Parker has broken his silence by writing to the Commons defence select committee, saying that Porton Down is sitting on the evidence which may explain Gulf War illness. Earl Howe, the defence minister, has agreed to meet him next month in London.

Working from laboratories set up inside vehicles, his team analysed airborne particles. Other teams took extensive blood samples from British troops. Findings were fed back to Britain via a data link.

Sgt Parker’s unit was part of the biological warfare reconnaissance team which – along with the chemical warfare reconnaissance team and the health survey team, which monitored the effects of vaccinations on the troops – reported to the Porton Down scientists.

Sgt Parker was assigned to the unit as part of the Royal Army Medical Corps, which has suffered a high number of casualties of Gulf War illness.

He said last night: "The MoD would probably not admit to the existence of the unit but I have the photographs to prove it.

"Blood samples were taken in the UK before the vaccinations, then after they were vaccinated and at various times in the Gulf.

"Why has the data collected by the biological and chemcial teams not been released? I want them to tell me why I am ill, because they know."

Sgt Parker, a fit man of 31 when he went to war, is now diagnosed as having chronic fatigue syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder and renal impairment.

He also suffers from a heart problem and has dizzy spells and blackouts. Before the war he was given 12 vaccinations.

A spokesman for Porton Down said its scientists "may well" have been in the Gulf but could not discuss an operational matter."



 

Annex B

Reproduction from a letter from Dr John Reid MP to Mr Robert Key MP

The following is a reproduction of the text of a letter, dated 18 August 1997, from the then Minister of State for the Armed Forces, Dr John Reid, to Mr Robert Key MP.(31)

‘On 31 July, I undertook to write to you (Official Report, column 476) in response to two Parliamentary Questions which you had tabled on the sampling methods and equipment used by 1st Field Laboratory Unit (1 FLU) during the Gulf War.

Firstly, you asked in what form the samples taken by the Sandfly air sampling system installed on the biological detection system vehicles operated by 1 FLU during the Gulf War were recorded and stored. All of the nine vehicles operated in an identical manner. The Sandfly air sampling systems collected airborne particles into a sterile liquid media. At the end of each sampling period, some of the material was analysed using the two detection systems mounted on the vehicles (one of which was generic and the other designed to test for specific biological agents). The remaining material was refrigerated and stored for at least 24 hours before disposal. This was to allow the crews to re-test material if required and to retain a baseline sample in the event of a positive detection in the subsequent 24-hour period. Logistical constraints made it impractical to store or retain samples beyond this time, or for return to the UK, on a routine basis. A third, non-specific, detection system analysed the air directly and did not make use of the samples collected by the Sandfly sampler.

Details of the samples taken were recorded by the system operators on pre-printed forms to give the following information: date, unit, location, operator details, sample identifier, time of sample collection, volume of sample, air temperature, relative humidity and wind direction. The output from the non-specific and specific detection systems was recorded by the system computers onto floppy and hard discs. Output from the generic detector was recorded manually on a pre-printed form. Most of the records (both those on computer disc and in hard copy) were destroyed in mid 1991. However, partial records of Sandfly sampling activities and output from the generic and specific detectors for some of the vehicles, and covering at least part of the deployment period, remain stored at CBD Porton Down.

You also asked how many of the BDS vehicles operated by 1 FLU had arrived in-theatre with their scientific equipment damaged and how many were subsequently repaired to full operational capability by the end of the conflict. The vehicles operated by 1 FLU contained conventional laboratory equipment which had not previously been fully tested for field use. On arrival in the Gulf on 10/11 January 1991, some of the vehicles displayed minor electrical and computer faults, which were corrected by the 1 FLU crews during the 'into service' commissioning period. Records show that eight of the nine vehicles were fully operational as of 20 January 1991. The ninth vehicle experienced a failure of the generic detector which was replaced from stores despatched from the UK.

All 1 FLU teams experienced breakdowns or failures of equipment at some time during the Gulf War. The deployment of two BDS vehicles to all but one location minimised the effects of single-system failures and retained the operability of 1 FLU. Most faults were due to failure of commercial electrical transformers. There is no indication in the 1 FLU Post Operations Report of any equipment failures from 25 February 1991 until the end of 1 FLU's deployment in March/April 1991.

A copy of this letter has been placed in the Library of the House.’

 

Annex C

Alarm Log  

Location DTG32 Tests performed Total ATP Non-microbial Microbial Comments on log sheets
Team A            
Al Jubayl 180630 Jan 91 APMS alarm 18 16 2  
FFMA 202100 Jan 91 APMS alarm 56 50 6  
FFMA 202130 Jan 91 APMS alarm 72 30 42  
FFMA 202200 Jan 91 APMS alarm 76 28 48  
FFMA 210100 Jan 91 APMS alarm 54 24 30  
FFMA 210600 Jan 91 APMS alarm 36 29 17  
FFMA 241840 Jan 91 Biotrace (SAK –ve) 2249 4298 -2049 Fire burning near cyclone
Team B            
Riyadh 252230 Jan 91   1554 46 1508 Sand storm
  032030 Feb 91   1568 35 1533 Sand storrn
Team C            
Dhahran 162030 Jan 91 APMS alarm 54 31 28 Cause unknown
  170555 Jan 91 APMS alarm NA – SCUD alert NA – SCUD alert NA – SCUD alert Cause – Aircraft
  172109 Jan 91 APMS alarm 39 31 8 Unknown
  172135 Jan 91 APMS alarm 32 27 6 Unknown
  180035 Jan 91 APMS alarm 83 37 46 Unknown
  180239 Jan 91 APMS alarm 34 31 3 Unknown
  200118 Jan 91 APMS alarm 46 7 39 Unknown
Team D            
  090210 Feb 91 +ve N +ve Y 414 99 315 No APMS alarm (bad +ve controls)
  100150 Feb 91 ‘Possible positives’ 112 40 72 Not supported by APMS
Team E            
Tabuk 180156 Jan 91 APMS alarm       Wind created soil dust
  18 Jan 91 Threshold E/F +ve       Test repeated negative
  19-20 Jan 91 APMS x 2       False alarm due to disturbance
Team F            
Tabuk 181930 Jan 91 Biotrace 15, 834 11, 019 4, 815 Contaminated +ve control
Team G            
Muharraq 180730 Jan 91 APMS 51.5 17 34.5  
  050230 Feb 91 Threshold 185.5 89.6 95.9 Reader low on ? causing result
  230510 Feb 91 Biotrace 315.6 34.8 280.8 False positive
  242010 Feb 91 Biotrace 18488.5 14641.5 3847 Panic!
  242040 Feb 91 Biotrace 1484 1517.6 -33.6  
  242110 Feb 91 Biotrace 12380.4 8879.6 3300.8  
  242140 Feb 91 Biotrace 1931 1393 538  
  242240 Feb 91 Biotrace 23494.5 18433.5 5061  
  242310 Feb 91 Biotrace 7909.2 7082.3 826.9  
  242340 Feb 91 Biotrace 1875.6 1794.6 81  
  250010 Feb 91 Biotrace 1283.2 1038.4 244.8  
  250040 Feb 91 Biotrace 395.2 297.6 97.6  
  250110 Feb 91 Biotrace 228 144 84
Team H            
33 Fd Hos 142215 Jan 91 APMS alarm 221 119 99  
  150956 Jan 91 APMS alarm 521 121 394  
  151258 Jan 91 APMS alarm 425 408 13  
  151422 Jan 91 APMS alarm 205 187 11  
  151530 Jan 91 APMS alarm 240 178 56  
  160950 Jan 91 APMS alarm 48 59 -10  
  161420 Jan 91 APMS alarm 107 111 -5  
  161510 Jan 91 APMS alarm 5757 7566 -1809 Vehicle
  161600 Jan 91 APMS alarm       Vehicle
  161643 Jan 91 APMS alarm        

 

Annex D

Biological Warfare Agents

Introduction

Biological warfare (BW) agents have never been employed on a large scale in warfare. The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) signed in 1972 bans the use in war of BW and also the production and stockpiling of BW agents. Iraq is a signatory to the BWC.

Bacterial BW agents are living microorganisms intended to be spread deliberately as aerosols or in food or water. When they enter the body, they infect the individual and cause symptoms characteristic of the disease. Some diseases caused by BW agents can be spread to uninfected persons, causing subsequent infection. Under special circumstances some types of bacteria, such as anthrax, can be transformed into spores. The spore is more resistant to harsh environmental conditions than the normal bacterial cell. Spores are a non-vegetative (resting) form of bacterium and, like the seeds of plants, can germinate when conditions are favourable.

Toxins in contrast are toxic chemicals produced by various living organisms. In the context of BW, toxins are usually produced by bacteria or fungi. Because they are chemicals, they do not require an incubation interval before they produce their effect.

The properties of the main BW threat agents, ie. anthrax and plague bacteria and BTx have been covered in some detail in the paper describing the medical countermeasures that were used during the Gulf conflict33. The one remaining BW agent that Iraq has admitted to weaponsing is aflatoxin. Some properties of aflatoxin are described below.

Aflatoxin

Mycotoxin is a generic name for toxic substances (toxins) produced by fungi (moulds). Several types of mycotoxin were studied in the Iraqi BW programme, including trichothecenes and aflatoxin, but only aflatoxin is thought to have been weaponised.

Aflatoxins are a group of structurally related carcinogenic compounds, which are produced by the Aspergillus fungi. These occur naturally and can contaminate foodstuffs such as nuts, grain and milk if they are poorly stored. When Aspergillus fungi grow they produce a family of aflatoxins, the most common of which are known as aflatoxin types B1, B2, G1 and G2. Aflatoxin B1 is generally accepted as the most potent aflatoxin, both in terms of toxicity to the liver and the potential to cause liver cancer. Although some aflatoxins have been studied extensively in terms of long term effects on health, the bulk of the scientific data relates to animals, either following experiments or accidental ingestion of contaminated feed.

When ingested, aflatoxins are metabolised in the liver to an active form that damages the genetic material (DNA and RNA) and proteins in the liver cells. This impairs their function and can lead to long term damage and cancer in a number, but not all, animal species. Animal experiments have also shown that aflatoxin can damage the immune system, leading to infection and can have an effect on various other organs.

In humans, the acute effects of aflatoxin ingestion depend upon the dose, as well as other factors such as age, nutritional status and concomitant disease. At low levels the symptoms may be quite innocuous: rash, nausea and headache lasting a day or so. At higher dose levels, malaise, vomiting, abdominal pain, high fever, respiratory difficulty and symptoms of liver damage (eg. jaundice, oedema and haemorrhage) may occur. There is no evidence to suggest that the inhalation of an aerosolised aflatoxin mixture can cause jaundice or hepatitis in the period of several days after an exposure, although it should be noted that this conclusion is drawn from a small data set.

 

Annex E

Map of Bahrain

 

Annex F

Map of Persian Gulf region

 

Annex G

Glossary

1 FLU 1 – Field Laboratory Unit

2 I/C – Second in Command

AMC – Air Mounting Centre

API – Analytical Profile Index

APMS – Aerosol Particle Monitoring System

ASMA – Air Staff Management Aid

ATP – Adenosine Triphosphate

BATS – Biological Antibiotic Treatment Set

BDS – Biological Detection System

BFME – British Forces Middle East

BW – Biological Warfare

BWC – Biological Weapons Convention

BTx – Botulinum toxin

CAM – Chemical Agent Monitor

CBD – Chemical and Biological Defence

CBDE – Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment

CBW – Chemical and Biological Warfare

CDE – Chemical Defence Establishment

CENTCOM – US Central Command

COLPRO – Collective Protection

CW – Chemical Warfare

DERA – Defence Evaluation and Research Agency

DIS – Defence Intelligence Staff

DNBCC – Defence Nuclear Biological and Chemical Centre

DNBI – Disease and Non-Battle Injury

FMA – Force Maintenance Area

GVI – Gulf Veterans’ Illnesses

GVIU – Gulf Veterans’ Illnesses Unit

HQ – Headquarters

IPE – Individual Protective Equipment

KKI – King Khalid International

ml – Millilitres

MARCENT – US Marine Forces Central Command

MOD – Ministry of Defence

NATO – North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

NBC – Nuclear Biological and Chemical

OIC – Officer in Command

POR – Post Operations Report

RAF – Royal Air Force

RAFDET – RAF Detachment

RAMC – Royal Army Medical Corps

RPG – Rocket Propelled Grenade

SAK – Standby Assay Kit

SF – Special Forces

SIBCA – Sampling and Identification of Biological and Chemical Agents

SOP – Standard Operating Procedure

UNSCOM – United Nations Special Commission

WMD – Weapons of Mass Destruction

 

NOTES

1. Gulf Veterans' Illnesses A New Beginning, dated 14 July 1997.

2. During the Gulf conflict, the MOD facility at Porton Down was known as the Chemical Defence Establishment (CDE).  It is now the Chemical and Biological Defence (CBD) Sector of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA).

3. D/Min(AF)JR/PQ 0759I/97/A, D/Min(AF)JR/PQ 0775I/97/A dated August 1997.

4. Session 1996/1997 - 6th Report on Gulf War Illnesses: Latest Developments dated 19 March 1997.

5. Gulf Veterans' Illnesses: A New Beginning, dated 14 July 1997.

6. The codename given to the UK's deployment to, and operations in, the Gulf in 1990/1991.

7. British Chemical Warfare Defence During the Gulf conflict (1990-1991), dated 7 December 1999.

8. Review of Events Concerning 32 Field Hospital and the Release of Nerve Agent Arising from US Demolition of Iraqi Munitions at the Khamisiyah Depot in March 1991, dated 7 December 1999.

9. A Review of the Suggested Exposure of UK Forces to Chemical Warfare Agents in Al Jubayl on 19 January 1991, dated 20 January 2000.

10. Background to the Use of Medical Countermeasures to Protect British Forces During the Gulf War (Operation GRANBY), dated 28 October 1997.

11. Implementation of the Immunisation Programme Against Biological Warfare Agents for UK Forces During the Gulf Conflict 1990/1991, dated 20 January 2000.

12. Dead Animals During the Gulf Conflict, dated 6 April 1998.

13. NBC Cells existed to collate and evaluate NBC information, to disseminate warnings and to advise staff on the implications of NBC issues.

14. Anthrax is the name of the disease caused by the anthrax bacteria (or bacillus).  There are eight types of BTx (A, B, C1, C2, D, E, F and G) which are chemical toxins.  For a full explanation of these terms, see the MOD paper on medical countermeasures mentioned in paragraph 15.

15. For information about mycotoxins, see Annex D.

16. British Chemical Warfare Defence During the Gulf conflict (1990-1991), dated 7 December 1999.

17. Background to the Use of Medical Countermeasures to Protect British Forces During the Gulf War (Operation GRANBY), dated 28 October 1997.

18. Implementation of the Immunisation Programme Against Biological Warfare Agents for UK Forces During the Gulf Conflict 1990/1991, dated 20 January 2000.

19. These agents are henceforth referred to as the BW threat agents.

20. For details see the MOD paper British Chemical Warfare Defence During the Gulf conflict (1990-1991), dated 7 December 1999.

21. 'Z' time is Greenwich Mean Time.  Local time in the Gulf was 3 hours ahead of GMT.

22. NBC threat states provide a framework for warning of the general threat of NBC attack.  Threat state black is a warning of the imminent arrival of, or presence of CBW agents, or radiological hazards.

23. Air Staff Management Aid (ASMA) was an electronic text messaging system that enabled communication throughout theatre and also with the UK.

24. When the air at ground level is the same as pressure as the air higher in the atmosphere, there is little mixing.  These 'stable' conditions typically occur at dawn.  When the air at ground level is warm and less dense than the air above, it rises and exchanges with the air higher up.  These 'unstable' conditions typically occur during the day and are less suitable for mounting BW attack because the agent will be diluted more rapidly.

25. Data are incomplete and no details survive of the locations that the BDS teams were stationed at in Iraq or Kuwait.

26. These teams operated the German FUCHS vehicles, which were light armoured NBC reconnaissance vehicles with a number of on board detection systems.  They were given to the UK by the German Government and operated by UK crews.

27. Dead Animals During the Gulf Conflict, dated 6th April 1998.

28. Ptarmigan is a land based communications system.

29. Mycotoxins and Gulf War Illness: A Possible Link.

30. Gassed in the Gulf.  Patrick G. Eddington.  Insignia Publishing Company (1997).

31. D/Min(AF)JR/PQ 0759I/97/A, D/Min(AF)JR/PQ 0775I/97/A dated August 1997.

32. 'DTG' stands for Date Time Group.  For example, 180630 Jan 91 corresponds to 0630 on 18 January 1991.

33. Background to the Use of Medical Countermeasures to Protect British Forces During the Gulf War (Operation GRANBY), dated 28 October 1997.







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