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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iraq Survey Group Final Report


Al ‘Ubur Missile Program


The Al ‘Ubur program probably began between 1999 and 2000 after UNSCOM departed and increased funding was available. The basic concept was to produce a SAM system, possibly modeled on the advanced Russian S-300 SAM. While Iraqi personnel reportedly gained access to the S-300, such a program was likely beyond Iraq’s capabilities and the whole concept assumed an environment where there was no adherence to sanctions. According to one senior Iraqi, the program involved not only the missile, but also radar, launcher, and ground support equipment. This initiative is evidence of Iraq’s belief that it would be able to import the required materials almost at will.

The Al ‘Ubur SAM is subject to a number of diverse spellings in its conversion from Arabic to English. While Al ‘Ubur is used here, the system can be found referred to as Al Ibur, Al Ubour, Al Aboor, and a number of other variations.

Brigadier General Mahmud Tahir from the Al Rashid General Company headed the overall development effort. Other program officials from Al Rashid included ‘Abd-al-Baqi Rashid Shia’ Al Ta’i (DG of Al Rashid) and Brigadier Engineer Mar’uf Mahmud Salim Al Jalabi (DG of Al Fat’h General Company). The Al Fat’h General Company was responsible for the solid rocket motor and the airframe designs, including the warhead, fuze, structure, aerodynamics, as well as the G&C system. The Al Milad General Company was responsible for the development of the radar. The Al Fida’ General Company was responsible for the launcher.

While some Iraqi officials have stated the Al ‘Ubur program was intended to produce a SAM, the potential for use as a SSM has been acknowledged by senior Iraqi missile officials.

  • Based on the proven Al Fat’h solid-propellant motor, the Al ‘Ubur would have used a solid-rocket motor with the same diameter, but one meter longer than the Al Fat’h. While the Al ‘Ubur motor would have had a different thrust profile optimized for use as a SAM, the Al ‘Ubur most likely would have exceeded the 150-km limitation of UNSCR 687 if used as an SSM, according to a few officials in the Iraqi missile program.
  • Because the Al ‘Ubur and Al Fat’h solid-rocket motors would use the same propellant mixture, creation of an Al ‘Ubur motor optimized for an SSM role would have only required the creation of a different mandrel to optimize the thrust profile.
  • Flight-testing of an Al ‘Ubur SAM would have provided relevant performance data if the missile was to be used in an SSM role.

Based on reporting disclosures about the development of the Al ‘Ubur, ISG judges that, Iraq most likely intended to modify the Al ‘Ubur motor, once developed, for use in an SSM mode. Based on its previous success in converting the SA-2/Volga into an SSM, Iraq possessed the techniques required to undertake such a project.


The Al ‘Ubur solid rocket motor was the major system component furthest along in development by the time of OIF. The Al ‘Ubur motor was effectively an Al Fat’h motor with its length extended from 3.5 to 4.5 m. It had the same 500-mm diameter, propellant formulation, and steel case material. The Al ‘Ubur had a different wagon wheel grain design to provide a different thrust profile and a different nozzle optimized for a SAM, compared to the 3-point star configuration in the Al Fat’h, according to a senior program official.

  • The Al ‘Ubur thrust profile failed to meet the calculated thrust, but the motor was considered more “stable” than the Al Fat’h motor, according to the same official.

Guidance and Control

Given the ever-decreasing effectiveness of sanctions, Iraq was able to consider bolder steps in areas where it still had technical difficulties. If the sanctions regime remained strictly enforced, there would have been little or no effort by Iraq to address these shortfalls. The Al ‘Ubur design called for a strap down INS that would be provided by a Russian company and an integrated radar seeker for terminal guidance, but the entire G&C system was never prototyped. The Soviet R-40 (AKRID/AA-6) AAM was used for simulation and parts.

  • The Al ‘Ubur SAM system would have been an extremely complex system with an integrated radar seeker, phased array radar, and controlled via communication uplinks and downlinks embedded into the radar waveforms. The communication links and the radar were to be designed by the Al Milad General Company.

According to an official within the Iraqi missile program, an unnamed Russian company was to provide eight Fiber-Optic Gyroscope (FOG) INS systems; four would go to Al Karamah and four to Al Milad. Four ring laser gyroscope (RLG) INS systems were also to be provided and equally divided between Al Karamah and Al Milad. Al Karamah received up to seven FOG systems by the second-half of 2002.

ISG judges that this information may be in error because use of a full INS on a SAM is not required. It is more likely that this information is associated with Al Fat’h or Al Samud II as specified by another source.


The Al ‘Ubur SAM was designed to carry a fragmentation warhead weighing 176 to 180 kg.


Al ‘Ubur motor testing began using an intermediate subscale motor contained in an Ababil-50 motor case. These tests had mixed test results, using various propellant grain designs. Full-scale motor testing probably began in 2002, but reports vary on the actual start date.

  • One senior official reported that a successful full-scale test was conducted on 12 January 2002.
  • Another official reported that full-scale testing was conducted from approximately June to November 2002.

Following the successful static tests, Iraqi officials discussed using the Al ‘Ubur in an SSM role, although no formal actions were taken. Range calculations produced a variety of results.

  • One calculated range is given as 220 km and a second gives a range of 206 km, according to two officials involved in the Al ‘Ubur program. Details of the missile configurations used in these calculations are unknown.
  • There were no flight tests of the Al ‘Ubur, and activity on the program ceased with the beginning of OIF.


The manufacture of a modern phased array-based SAM system would have been a daunting challenge for Iraq, even with access to Russian technical specifications. Exploitation of captured documents, however, indicates development of the SAM elements of the Al ‘Ubur program by the end of 2002.

The potential use of the Al ‘Ubur SAM as a long-range ballistic missile is clear, and high-level officials in the program indicated they had considered using the Al ‘Ubur as an SSM. The similarities in the proposed rocket motor and INS indicate an Al ‘Ubur SSM could be developed quickly, but such development could be detected during the inspection process. Further, given the longer motor and potential for lighter materials, an Al ‘Ubur SSM would certainly have exceeded the 150-km limit imposed by the UN. ISG judges that elements of the Al ‘Ubur SAM program were well beyond Iraq’s manufacturing capabilities.

Other Composite Solid-Propellant Systems

By the late 1990s, Iraq had a number of rocket systems that had reached the end or exceeded their shelf life and needed refurbishment, including the FROG-7 (LUNA), Ababil-50, and some SAMs. Iraq was not able to acquire replacement systems from abroad or get help for the refurbishment effort; it had to rely on domestic capabilities.

In 2000-2001, Iraq began a “re-motor” project to extend the shelf life of its FROG-7 (LUNA) and Ababil-50 battlefield artillery rockets by replacing their aging double-base solid rocket motors with more energetic composite solid-propellant motors. Renamed Al Ra’ad and Al Nida’, respectively, these efforts helped advance the composite solid infrastructure in Iraq. It is unclear if these projects were completed by the time of OIF.

  • Composite propellants offer higher energy than double-base propellants, so the re-motor effort renewed the shelf life and improved performance of the rockets.

Long-Range Ballistic Missile Projects

United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 687 restricted Iraq’s delivery systems to ranges not in excess of 150 km. Further, UN sanctions and rigorous UNSCOM inspections were a serious constraint to Iraq’s missile research and development programs. Though unable to overtly develop long-range missile projects, compelling evidence suggests that Iraq, in order to reach targets like Tel Aviv and Tehran, never abandoned its interest in delivery systems with ranges well beyond 150 km. Husayn Kamil’s flight to Jordan effectively ended all work on long-range missiles until the efforts were reconstituted after 1998.

  • A senior Iraqi missile engineer stated that the subject of long-range missiles (i.e., missiles with ranges greater than the 150 km) was not raised again until 1997/98 at a monthly ballistic missile meeting chaired by Huwaysh at MIC. At the meeting, Huwaysh reportedly stated his desire for a 1,000-km missile.
  • According to Kamal Mustafa “Abdallah Sultan Al Nasiri, the former Secretary General of the Republican Guard, Huwaysh in the summer of 1999 gave a speech to the Republican Guard and SRG audience in which he stated that Iraq was developing a missile with a range of 500 km and that it would take five years to develop.
  • At a June 2000 meeting, Saddam ordered Huwaysh to develop a missile with a range greater than the range of the Samud II, according to a senior official within the Iraqi missile program.

Historical Projects

Iraq has a history of studies, research, development, and production of various long-range ballistic missiles. Much of this work found its way into more recent studies.

Al ‘Abid (1989)

By 1989, Iraq had designed, manufactured and tested the first stage of a three-stage space launch vehicle. The first stage was a cluster of five Scud-variant missiles. Although the vehicle failed after 45 seconds, it proved a successful technology demonstrator for generic clustered designs.

  • The test achieved multiengine ignition, thrust build-up, release, and controlled ascent during part of the first stage trajectory. At about Mach 1, the aerodynamic stresses overcame the control authority and the missile inter-stage collapsed, according to an interview with a senior missile official and an UNSCOM report. According to senior Iraqi officials, Iraq continued studying clustered Scud engines for a year after the Al ‘Abid failure, ceasing in 1991.

Multistage Launch Vehicle Simulations (1990-95)

In 1991-92, Iraq conducted flight simulations of a three-stage missile incorporating Scud-type missiles, according to material obtained by the UN. According to an Iraqi official, this was a theoretical study that included trajectory calculations for several clustered SA-2 engine configurations. The configuration was different from that of earlier work conducted on Al ‘Abid.

In 1993, Iraqi engineers were ordered to design a turbopump capable of simultaneously feeding a cluster of four SA-2 engines. Although no turbopumps or engine clusters were produced, the concepts were well understood.

At the end of 1994 through early 1995, Iraq performed studies for multi-stage launch vehicles using performance parameters derived from clustered SA-2 engines. The configurations studied would have exceeded 150 km.


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