$9.5M for Special Z-Backscatter Scan-Vans to Afghanistan & Iraq
American Science and Engineering’s Z Backscatter Van (ZBV) is a low-cost, extremely maneuverable screening system built into a commercially available delivery van. The ZBV employs AS&E’s patented Z Backscatter technology, which offers photo-like images that reveal contraband that transmission X-rays miss – such as explosives (including car bombs), people and plastic weapons – and provides photo-like imaging for rapid analysis.
The ZBV is also capable of identifying low levels of radioactivity from both gamma rays and neutrons with optional Radioactive Threat Detection (RTD) technology. Here’s how it works…
A lot of organic material is low-density, and doesn’t show up well on traditional transmission X-ray images. For instance, organic matter like explosive materials contains low atomic number (low Z) elements such as carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen.
American Science and Engineering, Inc.’s (AS&E) products creates photo-like Z Backscatter images showing organic materials by directing a sweeping beam of X-rays at the object under examination, and then measuring and plotting the intensity of scattered X-rays as a function of the beam position. Akin to light reflection, Z-Backscatter signals are particularly strong whenever the incident X-rays interact with explosives, plastics, and other biological items, which typically contain low Z materials. Even inorganic objects, such as metals, are given shape and form in Z-Backscatter images, making them easier to interpret than transmission images during X-ray evaluation.
The technology’s abilities include near-photo quality views through clothes when used in airport screening systems, which caused something of a privacy uproar. Questions have also been raised re: the health risks to those scanned, which may well be ignored in situations of war or insurrection, but become a live issue when proposed as an requirement for popular activities like airline travel.
The Z-Backscatter vans can scan vehicles while the system itself is moving, or they can be operated in stationary mode by parking the system and producing X-ray images of vehicles as they pass by. In high-threat areas, a stationary mode van can even be operated remotely from up to 500 meters/ 0.3 miles away. Or it can be operated in mobile mode, scanning an entire row of parked cars in a single pass-through and producing clear images.
In recent years, AS&E has added to their systems’ options with forwardscatter technology. Forwardscatter offers a second scatter perspective that displays dense objects in cargo, such as the shielding found around nuclear materials. An improved Z-Backscatter Van or ZBV Mil trailer in stationary scan mode, for instance, would also have Forwardscatter detectors positioned opposite the X-ray source in the trailer. The Forwardscatter image is displayed simultaneously with the Z Backscatter image, providing the operator with more information about the contents of a scanned vehicle. A vehicle that was also equipped with the radiation threat detection (RTD) option would be able to scan for organic materials, extremely dense shielding materials, and low levels of radioactivity from both gamma rays and neutrons.
Contracts & Key Events
This section lists all DefenseLINK announcements covering US military contracts, with a public reporting threshold of $5 million. For additional updates, see DID’s article “Better Than X-Rays: The Z-Backscatter Scan-Van.”
Aug 31/06: American Science & Engineering in Billerica, MA received a $46.5 million firm-fixed-price service contract for service and maintenance support of 67 Z-Backscatter Systems, associated manuals, and spare parts. Work will be performed in various locations within the countries of Iraq and Afghanistan, and is expected to be completed May 2009. Contract funds will expire by the end of the current fiscal year. This contract is a sole source award to the manufacturer and sole maintainer of the proprietary Z-Backscatter System. The Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, VA issued this contract (M67854-06-C-5163).
Aug 15/05: American Science and Engineering, Inc. in Billerica, MA received a $61.3 million firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract with a maximum ordering quantity of 52 Z-Backscatter X-Ray Systems and associated manuals, spares and field support. The initial delivery order of $38.7 million is for 32 of the 52 Backscatter Systems available on the contract.
Work will be performed in Billerica, MA, and is expected to be complete by August 2006. This contract is a sole source award to American Science and Engineering, Inc., the sole manufacturer of the Z-Backscatter X-Ray System. The Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, VA issued the contract (M67854-05-D-5168). See also AS&E release.
Aug 1/05: American Science and Engineering of Billerica, MA received a $9.5 million firm-fixed price contract for eight Z-Backscatter Vans to meet U.S. Central Command requirements for Afghanistan and Iraq. Work on this contract will be performed at Billerica, MA and is estimated to be completed on Sept. 1, 2005. The U.S. Army Contracting Agency at White Sands Missile Range, NM issued the contract (GS-07F-8897D). Army Public Affairs can be reached at (703) 692-2000.
Oct 21/04: The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has selected American Science and Engineering’s Z Backscatter Van for use in a pilot program to screen ferry-bound automobiles for explosives. The 30-day pilot program will take place at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry in Cape May, N.J., and is part of the TSA’s Secure Automobile Inspection Lanes (SAIL) project. Military Aerospace & Electronics report.
- American Science and Engineering, Inc – Z Backscatter Van Drive-By Screening System (Mobile System)
- How Stuff Works – Do “backscatter” X-ray systems pose a risk to frequent fliers?
- Health Physics Society – Screening Individuals with Backscatter X-Ray Systems
- Electronic Privacy Information Center – “Backscatter” X-Ray Screening Technology
- Responder Safety (March 30/07) – To See or Not to See? TSA unveils Backscatter technology at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport
- American Forces Press Service (Dec 1/05) – Iraqis Will Have Secure Voting Environment, General Says. “The border patrol is employing technology at the border crossings, he said. A type of X-ray machine known as a Backscatter system is being used to scan cargo vehicles to detect people trying to enter Iraq by hiding in cargo.”
- Electronic Privacy Information Center – (June 2005) – Transportation Agency’s Plan to X-Ray Travelers Should Be Stripped of Funding. “Two major vendors produce backscatter machines for security purposes. American Science and Engineering (AS&E) offers “Z Backscatter” products, including its “BodySearch” device for scanning humans.5 Rapiscan Systems, a division of OSI Systems, offers the Rapiscan Secure 1000, the X-ray machine that TSA is using to search air passengers.6″
- American Forces Press Service (Sept 29/04) – Iraq’s Border Enforcement Department Graduates First Cadet Class. “The goal is to have more than 180 border forts completed by the end of the year, and Petraeus said the rebuilding of infrastructure would continue, but that was not the only thing that needs to be done for the DBE to succeed. “While forts are necessary, they are not sufficient,” Petraeus said. “You also need the right technology and equipment to do your job.” Petraeus said new equipment is already flowing in from radios for communication, to backscatter X-ray machines to assist in inspecting vehicles, to ground sensors that will detect movement along the border. The technology, along with manpower, would be the key, he added.”