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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iraq Survey Group Final Report


TUnmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Remotely Piloted Vehicles (RPVs)

ISG has uncovered only limited information indicating an overall program intent for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to deliver chemical or biological warfare agents. In addition, ISG has noted that Iraq appears to have embarked on a number of loosely related UAV efforts since 1990. These efforts can be grouped into two major categories: efforts to convert manned aircraft into remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs), and efforts to design and build indigenous UAVs, as depicted in Figure 21. Conversion programs include the MiG-21 and L-29 RPVs, and indigenous developments include the Ibn-Firnas and Al Quds small UAV programs.

Brief History

Iraq’s UAV efforts began in the late 1980s with the development of small RPVs for surveillance and reconnaissance roles and continued in 1990 with the attempt to convert a MiG-21 fighter aircraft into an RPV. The Iraqis admitted to the UN that the intent for this program was to develop a CBW delivery platform. After the MiG-21 RPV program failed in 1991, Iraq started the Yamamah program to research small indigenous UAVs. In 1994-95, the Iraqis resumed efforts to convert a manned aircraft into an RPV, this time with the Czech L-29 trainer aircraft.

  • Reports differ on the purpose for the L-29. Some Iraqi officials report hearsay and suspicion that the system was being developed for CBW delivery. Other sources report the L-29 RPV program had more benign missions such as target drone and reconnaissance.
  • There is no definitive link between the L-29 and WMD. Ultimately, the L-29 RPV was a technical failure and had its funding terminated in 2001.

In the 1999-2000 timeframe, Minister of Military Industrialization Huwaysh felt that small, cheap UAVs were better than converted manned aircraft, so Iraq began an indigenous reconnaissance UAV and target drone development program in the Ibn-Firnas General Company that built on the Yamamah research program of the early 1990s.

  • Ibn-Firnas successfully developed the Al Musayara-20 UAV as a battlefield reconnaissance UAV, which was sold to the Iraqi Army and Republican Guard in 2002.
  • A second development program called Al Quds began at the instigation of former Yamamah Program Director Brigadier Engineer Dr. ?Imad ?Abd-al-Latif Al Rida’. MIC directed that this program focus on larger UAVs to meet military requirements for airborne electronic warfare programs. The Al Quds program had not yet succeeded by the onset of OIF in 2003.

Evidence available to ISG concerning the UAV programs active at the onset of OIF indicates these systems were intended for reconnaissance and electronic warfare. However, this evidence does not rule out the future possibility of adapting these UAVs for CBW delivery if the Iraqi Regime had made a strategic decision to do so.

  • While the Al Musayara-20 UAV and, if fully developed, the Al Quds UAVs had the capabilities required—range, payload, and programmable autonomous guidance—to be used as CBW delivery systems, ISG has not found evidence the Iraqis intended to use them for this purpose.
  • ISG has obtained indirect evidence that the L-29 RPV may have been intended for CBW delivery, but this program ended in 2001.



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