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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iraq Survey Group Final Report


Ibn-Firnas UAVs


Orders by Saddam for a competition between Ibn-Firnas and the Iraqi Air Force to produce the first fully autonomous UAV, combined with problems with the L-29 RPV, prompted Ibn-Firnas to concentrate on smaller UAVs. Saddam directed that funding increases slated to expand and improve the Air Force be transferred to building UAVs because Iraq was unable to acquire new fighter and bomber aircraft.

Ibn-Firnas, headed by Major General Ibrahim Isma’il Smain,had at least three UAV projects under way. The first was a small RPV known as Sarab-1 used solely as an air defense artillery training target. The Sarab-1 had a 1-to 1 ½-km range and some 60-70 was built. The second was the Al Musayara-20, which was larger, powered by a 342-cubic centimeter (cc) motor, and used commercial GPS navigation to fly a programmable flightpath (see Figure 22). The third was colloquially known as the “30-kilo airplane” because it was intended to have a 30-kg payload capacity.

  • Prototypes were built and tested, but the “30-kilo” program experienced controllability problems and was not completed by the time of OIF. The “30-kilo airplane” may also be known as the Al Musayara-30 or RPV-30 (see Figure 23).

In June 2002, an Al Musayara-20 UAV flew a demonstration flight that lasted three hours and covered a total distance of 500 km, although a source with direct access claimed the UAV remained within 15 km of its launch point. The UAV was initially controlled by the ground control station, then switched to autopilot shortly after takeoff and remained on autopilot until recovery.

  • In addition, this successful flight renewed the military’s interest in the Al Quds UAV project, which was concurrently developing larger UAVs with greater payload capacity for other missions like communications and radar jamming.

In the fall of 2002, MIC selected the Al Musayara-20 over the Iraqi Air Force entry (called the Iraqi Hawk) due to its superior performance. In November 2002, Ibn-Firnas concluded a contract to provide 36 Al Musayara-20 UAVs to the Iraqi Army for battlefield reconnaissance (the Republican Guard ordered a similar number). The contract specified the delivery of:

  • Thirty (30) Al Musayara-20 with autonomous, programmed guidance;
  • Six (6) Al Musayara-20 with remote-control capability, for training purposes only;
  • Twelve (12) Yamama-11 training aircraft (probably targets);
  • Eight (8) simulators;
  • Control, navigation, and reconnaissance equipment;
  • Six (6) ground control stations.

ISG has been unable to confirm if the specified items were delivered.


Requirements for the Al Musayara-20 in the Army contract include “…aircraft equipped with control, remote control and navigation systems via GPS, and gyroscopic autopilot system” (i.e., automatic preprogrammed G&C using GPS and gyros). Further specifications are shown in Table 5.

The Al Musayara-20 used a video camera for reconnaissance, but had no means of downlinking the video in real time. The video was recorded on board and could be viewed only after the aircraft was recovered. At one point, there was a request for Ibn-Firnas to develop an electronic countermeasures payload for this aircraft, but it lacked sufficient payload capacity, according to a UAV engineer.


Ibn-Firnas developed the Musayara UAV as a reconnaissance platform, according to Huwaysh, driven by lessons learned from the Iran-Iraq war where many general officers were shot down on helicopter reconnaissance missions. However, other roles were considered. In late 2002 or early 2003, Republican Guard Major Anmar ?Amil Hiza’ obtained approval from the Presidential Diwan to use UAVs like cruise missiles to attack command and control targets of known locations. Anmar contacted Ibn-Firnas and requested a flight test be arranged to determine if existing UAVs could perform this mission. Anmar’s requirement was for airplanes that work as cruise missiles, covering the distance of 120 km, carrying 20 kg of explosives (“TNT”) and flying over 3 km high, with the accuracy of 99% after entering the coordinates of the target into the flight computer.

  • In mid-January 2003, Ibn-Firnas performed the requested flight test at Tamuz Air Force Base southwest of Baghdad using an Al Musayara-20 UAV with a pre-programmed flightpath launched from the back of a truck.
  • Shortly after takeoff, the UAV was switched from manual control to autopilot and flew the pre-programmed route to Muhammadi AFB, a distance of approximately 80 km.
  • Anmar originally wanted the UAV to crash at a specific geographic location to prove that it could hit a planned target, but Ibn-Firnas engineers resisted this plan, insisting on recovering the UAV by parachute so it could be used again.

Reportedly, Anmar was impressed by the test and ordered Ibn-Firnas to build him 50 Al Musayara-20 UAVs. Ibn-Firnas officials, however, were suspicious of Anmar’s story about using TNT and, to avoid committing to the project, advised Anmar’ they would need more details on the mission in order to build the UAVs for him. Anmar reportedly became very nervous at being questioned by Ibn-Firnas officials and demanded they carry out the order, but Ibn-Firnas refused.

  • Anmar returned later to MIC with a letter from ?Abd Hamid Mahmud Al Khatab Al Nasiri, Saddam Husayn’s personal secretary, ordering Huwaysh to form a committee to investigate why the first order was not carried out and who was resisting implementing it.
  • Huwaysh appointed his deputy, Muzahim Sa’b Hasan Muhammad Al Nasiri, as head of the committee, which determined that Ibn-Firnas’ refusal was justified on technical grounds.
  • Huwaysh also expressed skepticism at the concept of loading the UAVs with 20 kg of TNT, believing that missiles could do the job more effectively. He feared that, with all the publicity over possible Iraqi possession of chemical and biological weapons, Anmar may have had something more deadly in mind.

Despite the committee’s decision, Ibn-Firnas built six Al Musayara-20 UAVs (one prototype and five production models) but never delivered them to Anmar. The UAVs were built at a new UAV site near the Al Karamah General Company facility in the Waziriya district of Baghdad. These UAVs were not equipped with cameras or recovery parachutes.

  • Completion of these UAVs was delayed due to unspecified problems with the autopilot.
  • After OIF, two Al Musayara-20 UAVs were recovered from the Waziriya site, probably two of the UAVs manufactured in response to Anmar’s requirement.

Foreign Assistance

Although the Ibn-Firnas UAVs were indigenous Iraqi designs, they were enabled by and dependent on foreign-procured components. These programs would not have been possible given strict adherence to sanctions and thus it was implicit that obtaining foreign material was not a problem. Examination of two Al Musayara-20 UAVs captured after OIF shows they used British WAE-342 piston engines.

  • Information provided by Huwaysh and other intelligence indicates that a Ukrainian company known as Orliss, headed by Dr. Olga Vladimirovna, provided some of the engines for the UAVs.
  • The Iraq based Rabban Safina Company also tried to acquire WAE-342 engines through Australia, along with gyroscopes and servomechanisms from multiple suppliers.

In addition to the engines, Ibn-Firnas imported Micropilot MP2000 and 3200VG autopilots, embedded GPS cards, and industrial computers for the Al Musayara-20 from Advantech, a Taiwanese firm. Engineers at Ibn-Firnas wrote the guidance software for the Advantech computers incorporated in the guidance system. GPS waypoint data were programmed on a laptop computer and loaded into the UAV’s guidance computer prior to flight.

  • According to a former high-level Iraqi official, the Iraqi ambassador to Russia, ?Abbas Khalaf Kunfadh, was directly involved in purchasing GPS components for Iraqi UAVs. He bought GPS equipment from Russian technicians who were employed by the Russian government, but who designed and sold the GPS devices out of their homes to make extra money. ?Abbas reportedly acquired the GPS devices without the knowledge of the Russian government.
  • According to a high-level official in the Iraqi UAV program, Iraq obtained four MP2000 and two 3200VG autopilots through an Australia-based procurement agent. These autopilots were never installed in UAVs because they arrived just before OIF. Iraqi officials deny attempting to intentionally acquire mapping software of the United States but did receive mapping software that came as part of the package with the MP2000 and 3200VG autopilots. The source indicated that these items were located at Ibn-Firnas prior to OIF but was unaware of their current location.
Table 5
Length 3.45 m
Wingspan 4.80 m
Height 0.95 m
Gross Weight 116 kg
Empty Weight 80 kg
Maximum Takeoff Weight 115 kg
Maximum Speed 170 kph
Maximum Flying Time per Tank 3 hrs
Maximum Altitude 3,000 m
Table 5 Al Musayara-20 specifications

Potential UAV Control Upgrade

In 1998, the Al Razi General Company of MIC began experimental work on a laser control system for use with UAVs. The experiments culminated with a UAV test flight using the laser control system in early 2000 at the Tikrit Air Academy. The UAV, identified as an Ibn-Firnas “Musayara,” flew to a distance of 6-10 km at an altitude of 700 meters.

  • The Musayara UAV in this experiment was painted red with a yellow stripe as was the vehicle identified by an Ibn-Firnas UAV technician as the “30 kilo” aircraft. However, the dimensions provided for the UAV used in the laser guidance experiment are smaller than the Al Musayara-20.
  • The laser control system served only as an uplink command signal, although research was under way on a two-way control link. The laser control system required an optical tracker to track the UAV and keep the laser aimed at the laser receiver on the UAV.

In March 2000, Al Razi Company published a report on the laser control flight test for MIC. Huwaysh was displeased with the results. He felt the system was not practical for UAV control because of the short range of the system, and he canceled the program.

Other foreign components identified in the Al Musayara-20 (depicted in Figure 24) include:

  • Remote-control unit labeled “PCM Telecommand System, Skyleader Radio Control Limited;”
  • Feranti Technologies vertical gyro Type FS60P;
  • Video recorder labeled “VCR Vinton Military Sytems Ltd;”
  • Single rate gyro units labeled “BAE Systems;”
  • Electronic unit labeled “DMS Technologies, 08/02;”
  • Sony 700X Super Steady Shot, digital eight video camera, model DCR-TRV530E;
  • Humphrey vertical gyro, model VG34-0803-1;
  • Multiplex Micro-IPD 7-channel narrowband receiver 35 MHz;
  • Schmalband-Empfanger multiplex Uni 9, 35 MHz.


The Ibn-Firnas programs were Iraq’s most successful unmanned aerial vehicle programs. Although heavily dependent on foreign procurement, Ibn-Firnas successfully developed the Al Musayara-20 UAV, capable of long-range, pre-programmed autonomous flight and intended to perform battlefield reconnaissance for the Iraqi Army and Republican Guard.

  • Less successful were attempts to develop a larger UAV with a greater (30 kg) payload. However, given time and the successful track record established by the Al Musayara-20, ISG judges Ibn-Firnas would most likely have succeeded in developing larger, more capable UAVs.

The June 2002 demonstration flight and the technical specifications in the Army purchase contract clearly reveal that the Al Musayara-20 may have violated the range restrictions imposed by United Nations Security Council Resolutions. Engineering analysis indicates the Al Musayara-20 was capable of a one-way fuel-exhaustion range well in excess of the 500 km flown in June 2002, and with the programmable GPS-based autopilot, the Al Musayara-20 was not “tethered” by a remote-control system.

  • It was necessary for the Al Musayara-20 UAV, in its reconnaissance role, to be able to remain aloft over the battlefield for extended periods and image a large number of targets per sortie. These performance parameters were not necessarily indicative of intent to use the Al Musayara-20 as a chemical or biological warfare delivery platform but provide a limited inherent capability.

Al Razi General Company’s 1998-2000 attempts to develop a laser, vice radio, control system would, if successful, have allowed Iraq to launch and recover UAVs without transmitting in the radio frequency spectrum. The directional nature of the laser would make UAV control signals virtually impossible to detect, depriving an adversary of indications and warning of UAV employment via signals intelligence (SIGINT). Additionally, a laser control system would be much more difficult for an adversary to jam or spoof.

  • The account of Al Razi’s flight test indicates that it was successful within line-of-sight range and, if combined with a vehicle with autonomous guidance capability, could have provided the Iraqis the means to operate more covertly with their UAVs without laser range limitations.
  • If the reports of Huwaysh’s cancellation of the project are accurate, either Huwaysh obviously did not appreciate this potential operational advantage, or he did not consider it important.

Republican Guard Major Anmar’s attempt to use the Al Musayara-20 like a cruise missile shows an awareness of the weapon potential of UAVs; however, the use of a conventionally armed UAV raises questions as to its actual use. Although the information we have indicates Anmar intended to arm the UAV with conventional explosives (probably in place of the recovery parachute), this UAV does have the range, payload, guidance, and autonomy necessary to be used as a biological weapon delivery platform ifthe Iraqi leadership made a decision to use it in this way and if a suitable dispenser system were available. ISG judges that the Al Musayara-20 does not have sufficient payload capacity to serve as an effective CW platform.

  • A BW platform conversion would require replacing the recovery parachute with a dispenser system and agent and limiting the UAV to one-way delivery missions. The same guidance system that allows the Al Musayara-20 to be programmed to automatically image targets of known location would be capable of being programmed to activate a BW dispenser at a known location.
  • ISG has not found evidence of intent or research and development activity associated with using Ibn-Firnas small UAVs as WMD delivery systems.

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