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By Chandler Warby, Executive Search Consultant, Safety and Defence

July 13, 2022

Tragic events in Ukraine bring the CBRN defence industry into focus


Through ongoing work with clients in the defence sector, I was keen to examine what recent global events mean to companies and employees operating in the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) space.


The threat of CBRN attacks or disasters has increased significantly. The immediate threat to life caused by extremely hazardous materials has been brought into focus by the recent tragic events in Ukraine, the Novichock attack in Salisbury and the munitions train derailment in Nevada, Las Vegas.


The recent form of biological threat is one of silence and surprise, therefore the defence within the CBRN industry will have to become a collective initiative. With this being said, countries that possess the knowledge, equipment and expertise to control any possible CBRN threats will need to come forth and aid less-developed countries with training and materials to help combat potential life-threatening scenarios.


The threat these kinds of materials pose to life is very well known, however it is often difficult to determine or predict the full potential of what these materials are capable of when in the wrong hands. Although traditional chemical weapons such as mustard gas, used in the first world war, are still in use to this day, we have been witness to more recent attacks involving significantly sophisticated nerve agents, such as the alleged use of Sarin, which is an organophosphorus nerve agent. A nerve agent this deadly is not easily accessed and would require significant knowledge and specialised resources not available to civilians.


As the threat of an attack by use of chemical weapons has increased, it is understandable that government and private organisations have started to invest more money in CBRN protection and prevention solutions in order to limit the possible danger to life.


CBRN protection gear does not only have one application, it can also be used in more casual settings, such as monitoring of mass events, high security meetings and industrial sites and the surveying of potentially hazardous areas.


As we enter a new age in technology, the integrating capabilities for operating, installing and training on CBRN threat detection technologies – through the deployment of state-of-the-art monitoring and surveillance systems, satellites and radars – are quickly becoming the next vast market opportunities.


As each country aims to develop its understanding of the CBRN threat, the use of unmanned monitoring and surveillance systems to conduct aerial surveillance will exponentially grow and most likely be a key component of CBRN counter measures.


The CBRN defence market was at an approximate $14.68bn in 2016 and is projected to reach heights of $19.15bn by the end of this year, at compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.65% from 2017 -2022. As events in Ukraine and various factors start to have influence such as developing regional conflicts among specific nations, it has instigated the stockpiling of a variety of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by countries around the world. Furthermore, the threats posed by terrorist groups and hostile neighbouring countries is thought to heavily drive the market.


In regards to types of hazardous material, the chemical segment is considered to account for the biggest share in the CBRN defence market in 2017 and during the forecast period is projected to grow at the highest CAGR. The main users of chemical defence equipment include fire safety departments, first responders within police forces and hazmat safety officers within the civil and commercial sectors.


Within equipment, the protective wearables part of the industry is projected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period and is estimated to account for the biggest share within the CBRN defence market in 2022. This kind of equipment is designed for the safety and protection of first responders to scenes which have been exposed to CBRN materials such as counter terrorism teams and firefighters. This type of equipment can range from protective footwear, protective gloves, protective hoods and masks and protective clothing.


It’s clear the threat level from CBRN attacks is ever-growing and the demand for correct protection, counter measures and training is on the increase. It is vital that the knowledge, protection and training to deal with this type of threat can be easily accessed and put in to practice as it could be the difference between life and death for millions of innocent people. 


If you are working in sales, account management or business development and you are seeking a role in the Safety and Defence sector, please contact me as I may a role suitable for your background.


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