The Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) carried out their second integrated field exercise (IFE14) in Jordan’s Dead Sea region from Nov. 3 to Dec. 9, 2014. The field exercise was designed to replicate a scenario in which a country (in this case, the fictional “Maridia”) has been accused of conducting a nuclear test and now the CTBTO must find evidence to either repudiate or validate this claim and find the specific nuclear test explosion site. Once the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) enters into force, any state party will have the right to request that a specific area be inspected if it is believed to have been the site of a nuclear explosion.
In the case of Maridia, the on-site inspection teams combed through 1,000 square kilometers of area next to the Dead Sea and used 150 tons of equipment. The CTBT provides the CTBTO inspection teams 17 methods for detecting whether a nuclear test explosion has taken place. During this field exercise, the inspections team used 15 of the 17 methods, including some that had never been used before. This is the largest exercise to date, dwarfing the previous integrated field exercise, which took place in Kazakhstan in 2008.
Over 200 international experts were invited to observe the on-site inspection exercise. This element of the treaty was the last component of the CTBTO verification regime to be fully tested—the other two are the international monitoring system, and the International Data Centre.
Jenifer Mackby, senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, discusses the recent field exercise in the January/February 2015 issue of Arms Control Today. You can also find photos and videos from the exercise posted by the CTBTO and other details on the blogs IFE14 and Stories From The Field.