Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD –
A groundbreaking technology that supports the Defense Department’s (DOD) commitment to safeguarding our forces is the Radiological Detection System (RDS). Replacing the current radiation detection, indication and computation (RADIAC) system, the RDS consolidates capabilities across the Joint Force. The RDS represents a transformative response to a critical need.
Imagine a scenario where a specialized response team is dispatched to a site with suspected radioactivity risks. Armed with the RDS, the team enters a building emitting potentially harmful radiation waves. With the lightweight handheld RDS, the service members swiftly scan the area, detect the radiation source, intensity and hotspots. Through geolocation data and GPS interface capabilities, the RDS allows service members to map out radiation zones and relay critical information back to their unit in real time. The RDS empowers the military with accurate data that guides them in establishing safe zones and effectively mitigating radiation exposure risks. This mission critical ACAT III program ensures continuous monitoring of any environment for radiation, providing invaluable insights into our warfighters’ exposure to various types of radiation and revolutionizing the way the services approach radiation detection.
Figure 1 - Radiological Detection Systems disassembled and presented in their respective containers for fielding.
Numerous stakeholders put tireless effort into the RDS's development. The Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense (JPEO-CBRND) and the Joint Requirements Office (JRO) worked hand-in-hand to ensure the RDS met each service’s specific detection needs. Collaborations with our allies from the United Kingdom and Canada also significantly enhanced the advancement of the system. Given our mutual radiation detection needs, working together on the RDS’s design brought an added layer of depth to the system’s evolution. This collaborative approach not only enriches RDS’s design, capabilities and functionality, but also sets the stage for more effective future joint efforts.
Figure 2 – Members of a Nuclear Disablement Team survey team are using the RDS system to survey an abandoned nuclear facility control center for residual ionizing radiation.
"Our overarching goal is to provide a safe and reliable tool our warfighters can depend on to provide accurate data and ensure their safety and the protection of others in the event of a nuclear or radiation incident," emphasized, Tierre Cobb, Deputy Acquisition Program Manager for the RDS.
The RDS embodies a user-centric design. Its lightweight, handheld, and interchangeable probe system ensures warfighters remain unencumbered during crucial and complex operations. Extensive user-feedback and real-world testing allowed JPEO-CBRND to fine-tune the RDS to meet the demands of the modern battlefield. Drawing from lessons learned during the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster response in Japan, the RDS represents a reliable and effective tool to navigate radiation incidents. In practice, specialized response teams rely on the RDS to detect radiation sources, assess exposure levels, and clear affected areas. With its GPS connectivity and network-ready data, the RDS enables seamless coordination among units, fostering a well-coordinated response to potential threats.
Figure 3 – A member of a Nuclear Disablement Team survey team is making a secondary entry into an abandoned nuclear facility using a RDS base unit with attached probe continue surveying for residual ionizing radiation.
The RDS received a successful Milestone C decision in June 2023, signifying the beginning of the Production and Deployment (P&D) phase of the formalized acquisition process. The RDS was evaluated to ensure it met required criteria before it moved into P&D. The RDS program received approval for limited production, marking a pivotal step in the program’s development. The program will return to the Milestone Decision Authority to seek approval for Materiel Release and Full Rate Production decisions, further solidifying the RDS’s progression and contribution to U.S. defense capabilities.
As JPEO-CBRND continues to field the RDS, it marks a crucial move toward a more standardized, efficient, and reliable radiation detection system across the Joint Force. The RDS ensures our warfighters can detect any nuclear or radiation incident in their environment with confidence. Said Christine Pan Tomecek, the Acquisition Program Manager for the RDS, "Our mission is clear: to provide our warfighters with the best tools for a safer and more secure future."
The RDS empowers a Joint Force with the means to navigate any radiological challenge on the horizon with all services being fully fielded by 2043.