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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iraq Survey Group Final Report

 

MiG-21 RPV

Background

In November 1990, MIC and the Iraqi Air Force Command embarked on a program to modify the MiG-21 fighter into an RPV for use in one-way “suicide” missions. The operational concept was for the aircraft to take off under remote control, presumably by a ground station, then after reaching a certain altitude control would be transferred to another, piloted aircraft in the area. The piloted aircraft would then remotely fly the MiG-21 RPV to the target area whereupon control would be transferred to the RPV’s autopilot for the terminal phase of the mission.

  • The Iraqis equipped the MiG-21 with an autopilot from the MiG-23 fighter, due to that autopilot’s better capability to ensure stable flight and to support all the necessary electrical and mechanical systems. The MiG-21 RPV was also fitted with servo-actuators for the control surfaces, throttle, and brakes. The remote-control system used was a German system produced by the Groupner Company, with eight channels, and operated on a frequency of 27 MHz.
  • At least one flight test was conducted on 10 January 1991 at Al Rashid Air Base, Baghdad, but technical problems required the onboard pilot to take control of the aircraft to insure safe recovery and landing.

Roles and Missions

Before OIF, Iraq’s National Monitoring Directorate (NMD) conducted an investigation into the MiG-21 RPV program to prepare a response to UNMOVIC. The NMD concluded that the MiG-21 RPV program failed due to lack of time and expertise to develop a workable control system. They also concluded that the MiG-21 RPV had been intended for a chemical and/or biological weapons delivery role.

  • In the mid-1990s, Iraq declared to the United Nations that the MiG-21 RPV had been intended for a CBW role.
  • The simple onboard sprayer system tested by Iraq (see the Weaponization section in the BW and CW chapters) would have been operated by a timer that would be set before takeoff. This RPV was intended for a one-way flight, flying until its fuel was exhausted.
  • The program appears to have ended sometime in 1991. The NMD reported that the absence of documentation of this fact and other program details was caused by bombardment of the work site (presumably during Desert Storm), which was a “shed” in the aircraft repair factory at Al Rashid Air Base, Baghdad.

 



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