AMC, industry collaborate to build aircraft decontamination system

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- The system is known as the Joint Biological Agent Decontamination System and Air Mobility Command expects the system to be available in 2019.

“More than 10 years ago, an Air Force general asked if there was a method that could decontaminate both the interior and exterior of an aircraft at the same time,” said Larry Magnuson, AMC chief of treaties compliance and counter weapons of mass destruction branch.

The answer was “no, we need an improved capability.” 

“The current decontamination processes are helpful, but they don’t provide the level of decontamination AMC is looking for,” said Magnuson. 

The level of decontamination provided by JBADS allows the aircraft to return to full operational capability. The JBADS program will provide the capability to conduct bio decontamination of the interior and exterior of aircraft and vehicle platforms using a bio-thermal decontamination process.

For more than nine years, AMC has been working with the Joint Project Manager for Protection, Air Force Research Lab and industry partners, to build technology capable of decontaminating an aircraft of biological warfare agents.

“The JBADS technology is important because it eliminates biological contaminants on aircraft surfaces safely without putting personnel at risk of exposure,” said Magnuson. “It also enables the full decontamination of an aircraft in less than five days as opposed to possibly months.”

“The goal was to build a system that allows every inch of the aircraft to reach the same temperature,” he said. “We proved that JBADS works with a prototype; now it’s time to take those lessons learned and finalize the design.”

The system’s design has gone through many rough drafts over the years. For example, the most recent test resulted in a request to change how the enclosure could be built.

“The current prototype is made of insulated panels that are conformal around an aircraft,” said Magnuson. “The new request asks for the enclosure to be built before the aircraft lands thus allowing the aircraft to be quickly towed in then pushed out of the enclosure and reducing the exposure to construction workers.” 

As the lead major command user, AMC is also exploring multiple uses for JBADS.

“There is a possibility for the JBADS technology to have other uses that commercial carriers and the Department of Defense may be interested in,” said Dr. Jimmie Jacobs, senior consultant to the AMC’s A10N branch.

For example, the technology could be used to remove mold and microbes from aircraft.

Certain types of mold and microbes, or living organisms, cause corrosion. Over time, mold, mildew, fungi, bacteria and other organic contaminants can build up in the hard-to-reach areas within aircraft structures and eat away at surface materials.

AFRL is researching causes, effects, and prevention of corrosion in aircraft structures and is considering JBADS as an option to rid aircraft of those microorganisms.

AMC and the AFRL are also sharing information with the Joint Strike Fighter Program.

The Joint Project Manager for Protection is currently handling program execution and will provide initial operational capability and full operational capability JBADS units to the Air Force. Five complete systems are planned for purchase that will be stored in a central location and be ready for air transportation anywhere in the world to quickly return a contaminated aircraft back to the warfighter.