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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iraq Survey Group Final Report


Al Quds UAV Program


Information uncovered by ISG reveals the Al Quds UAV program began in late 1999 or early 2000 when Dr. ?Imad ?Abd-al-Latif Al Rida’ submitted a proposal to Hadi Taresh Zabun, DG of the MIC Research Directorate, that claimed he could develop a better UAV than those being developed by Ibn-Firnas, according to Huwaysh and an official in the Iraqi UAV program. However, in late 1999 MIC recalled Dr. ?Imad from retirement and instructed him to renew Iraq’s development of small UAVs, which had stalled after Dr. ?Imad’s retirement in 1997.

  • Huwaysh stated that at approximately the same time Dr. ?Imad proposed his UAV development program, the Iraqi military asked MIC for a UAV capable of carrying 30-kg and 100-kg payloads for communications and radar jamming equipment. A high-level MIC official confirmed the 30-kg and 100-kg payload goals and that they were intended for jamming or direction-finding equipment.
  • Reportedly, Dr. ?Imad had no knowledge of the intended mission or payload for the aircraft he was developing; he was simply given a payload goal, and one report indicates he was not given the 100-kg goal until August 2002.

Huwaysh reported that, as part of Saddam’s “Long Arm” policy, he demanded a 24-hour endurance UAV (estimated range of 2,500 km) in response to Israel’s high-endurance UAV capability, which is similar to Dr. ?Imad’s reported belief that Saddam wanted a UAV on par with those of the US. No direct evidence links the Al Quds program to these stated range and endurance goals; the best indication of the actual performance goal for Al Quds is a June 2002 memorandum from MIC Deputy Director Muzahim to Huwaysh containing a project update on Al Quds which says, in part, “…?Imad ?Abd-al-Latif indicated that the only part left from the project is the instructions of the esteemed minister to increase the flying timing to four hours…”

  • When confronted with this memorandum, Huwaysh denied that he ever set such a performance goal for Al Quds and claimed to have never seen the memo. On the other hand, Muzahim authenticated the memo.

MIC established the Al Quds program in a hangar at Al Rashid Airfield, and development work began in January 2000. Dr. ?Imad requested that the program not be under MIC control, but Huwaysh refused and instead proposed a relationship where MIC would maintain budgetary and administrative control through Ibn-Firnas, but Dr. ?Imad would have managerial discretion over the program.

  • This arrangement allowed Dr. ?Imad to hire his own research and development staff of 12-20 people (reports differ on its size) and also obligated Ibn-Firnas to provide material support to Al Quds as required.
  • It appears that the Al Quds program was placed under the MIC’s Special Projects Office (a.k.a. Master Subjects Office), which was created by Huwaysh for key projects requiring high-level attention and financial support.

Multiple sources reported that the initial Al Quds efforts involved attempts to develop a jet-powered UAV that would meet the range and payload requirements. These efforts reportedly included evaluation of turbostarter engines from older Russian MiG and Sukhoi fighter aircraft in Iraq’s inventory and the Microturbo turbojet engine from the Italian Mirach-100 RPV that Iraq had obtained prior to 1990.

  • The MiG and Sukhoi turbostarter were ruled out due to excessive fuel consumption, and so development proceeded with the Microturbo engine.

The first Al Quds prototype, Quds-1, was 5-6 meters long and had a wingspan of 10-14 m. One source described the prototype as appearing “stealth” like but said radar cross-section reduction was not a goal of the program. Subsequent UNMOVIC photographs (see Figure 25) of later Al Quds prototypes reveal a faceted fuselage somewhat reminiscent of the US F-117A. Because of initial difficulties in obtaining servos and associated remote-control equipment, the initial prototype had a cockpit, flight controls and control, system for manned flight tests

  • Unspecified difficulties with the engine forced Dr. ?Imad to abandon plans to conduct a manned flight test, and the jet powered Al Quds prototype never flew.
  • Reportedly, in early 2003 this prototype was dismantled and the components spread through the aircraft scrap yard at Al Rashid and covered with palm leaves to conceal them from UN inspectors. One Iraqi scientist considered the entire attempt to produce a jet-powered UAV to be a “fraud.”

A high-level official in the Iraqi UAV program denied that a large, jet-powered UAV was the initial intent of the program, and claimed instead that, early in the program, engineers were having trouble fabricating symmetrical wings for the prototypes. Asymmetrical wings would cause the aircraft to roll on takeoff, possibly causing a crash before the operator could correct the roll. The large, jet-powered, manned vehicle was reportedly intended only as a testbed for wing symmetry with a pilot on board to correct the roll tendency.

The difficulties with the initial Al Quds prototype, combined with a lack of wind tunnel facilities to test the designs, prompted Dr. ?Imad to construct scaled-down versions of the prototype for open-air aerodynamic testing. According to an official at Ibn-Firnas, 10 subscale prototypes were produced for testing. The official further asserted that Dr. ?Imad made a decision to focus on the smaller UAVs to compete with the Al Musayara-20 reconnaissance UAV being developed by Ibn-Firnas.

  • These smaller subscale UAVs were the RPV-20a vehicles shown to UNMOVIC inspectors at Ibn-Firnas in early 2003.
  • Reportedly, Dr. ?Imad never informed MIC management of his decision to abandon the larger UAV development to focus instead on the smaller RPV-20a.

Both Huwaysh and Muzahim believed Dr. ?Imad was continuing to work on the large-payload UAV until early 2003 when they convened a program review. At the review, Huwaysh chastised Dr. ?Imad for wasting money on the program, hiring personnel without MIC approval, and for not achieving the stated goal of the program. Huwaysh also questioned the utility of developing a competitor to the successful Al Musayara-20.

  • Huwaysh claimed that he gave Dr. ?Imad 30 days to achieve progress toward the stated goal or the program would be terminated.

A high-level official at Ibn-Firnas provided a description of events somewhat different from Huwaysh’s statements, claiming that the 100-kg payload requirement was not levied on the Al Quds program until August 2002 when Muzahim stated MIC did not need both Dr. ?Imad and Ibn-Firnas to produce small UAVs. The source suggested that Dr. ?Imad did not know what the 100-kg payload requirement was for, but speculated that Muzahim wanted to install the reconnaissance system from the Mirage fighter in the UAV.

  • ISG judges that the claims for the asymmetrical wing testbed and the late requirement for a 100-kg payload are associated with the source’s unwillingness to admit initial failure with the jet-powered prototype. The weight of evidence indicates that the 100-kg payload requirement for electronic warfare applications was levied at the beginning of the program, not over two years later.
  • Further, Huwaysh is insistent that 30-kg and 100-kg payload capabilities were Al Quds program goals from the beginning.

In November 2002, MIC ordered the Al Quds program moved from Al Rashid airfield to Ibn-Firnas so that Dr. ?Imad could receive additional help from Ibn-Firnas personnel. According to a high-level official in the Iraqi UAV program, this move followed earlier complaints by Huwaysh that Dr. ?Imad was jumping from project to project without showing signs of progress. This allegation is supported by a source who worked for Dr. ?Imad on Al Quds and said Dr. ?Imad often switched projects in mid-stream, disrupting employee work schedules and never seeming to finish anything.

  • According to a source associated with the Al Quds project, Dr. ?Imad accepted many projects in the belief that the more projects his staff undertook the more money they could make. This tendency often required employees to work up to 22 hours straight in order to show any progress on a project.

Saddam’s “Long-Arm” Policy

Long-range UAV programs along with long-range missiles formed part of Saddam’s “Long Arm” policy.
This policy was in direct response to:

  • the inability of Iraq to acquire new fighter or bomber aircraft.
  • Iraq’s inability to counter its enemies’ anti-aircraft missile technology.
  • The vulnerability of Iraq’s air force.

The policy provided for the transfer of funds that were destined for purchases of new aircraft and equipment to the building of UAVS and missiles.

  • An engineer at Ibn-Firnas reported that the reason for the move from Al Rashid to Ibn-Firnas was MIC concerns that UNMOVIC discovery of a separate, undeclared UAV program would cause trouble for the Regime.

The Al Quds program was declared to the UN in Iraq’s 15 January 2003 semi-annual declaration. Documentary evidence obtained by ISG indicates that the Iraqis claimed to the UN that the “unmanned aerial vehicles of two types 20a and 30a” were “an idea that began in August 2002; and they announced it on 2003/01/15 according to the Resolution No. 715 (1991) of the Monitoring Plan.”

  • The document further indicates that UNMOVIC inspected this program four times, on 19 December 2002, 2 January 2003, 10 February 2003, and 4 March 2003.
  • Reportedly, UNMOVIC inspected the Al Quds program five times while it was at Ibn-Firnas.

Another source with direct access reported that, during UNMOVIC inspections, Al Quds workers were told to each take home components from the Al Rashid workshop for safekeeping until told to return them. Similar procedures were reportedly used to disperse equipment prior to the anticipated US air strikes. Regardless, the documented pre-OIF Iraqi claim that Al Quds began in August 2002 when it actually began in late 1999/early 2000 possibly reveals a specific intent to conceal the program from the UN.


Reportedly the eight subscale Al Quds/RPV-20a (please refer to Figure 25) prototypes had a 4.8 meter wingspan, a 15-kg payload to be carried in a one-square-foot internal compartment with a 24-volt power supply, a 70-kg maximum takeoff weight, and were powered by a 100-cc, two-stroke, two-cylinder, nine-horsepower pusher propeller engine.

  • The first test flight of the subscale prototypes took place in April or May of 2000. The first two subscale prototypes were fitted with landing gear and took off and landed from a runway.
  • Subsequent prototypes were launched from the roof of a pickup truck and recovered by parachute.

A high-level Ibn-Firnas official referred to these eight prototypes as Quds-1 through Quds-8 and did not acknowledge the jet-powered version described by other sources as “Quds-1.” However, there was no Quds-9, and the next aircraft in the series is the Quds-10 or RPV-30a which is described next.

Dr. ?Imad began development of the Quds-10/RPV-30a in November 2002 (presumably after the move to Ibn-Firnas). This RPV had a wingspan of 7.22 meters with a maximum takeoff weight of 130 kg and was intended to demonstrate the use of a pusher/puller engine configuration. In order to speed and simplify construction of the aircraft, an L-29 drop tank was used for the fuselage.

  • This aircraft flew only once, on 13 January 2003, remaining for 12-14 minutes in the airfield traffic pattern. Like the RPV-20a, Quds-10 was truck-launched but landed conventionally on the runway.

An Ibn-Firnas engineer claimed that Dr. ?Imad’s primary motivation for developing the RPV-30a was to surpass the performance of Ibn-Firnas’ Al Musayara-20, which had flown a 500-km circuit in June 2002. The engineer reported that Dr. ?Imad claimed the lighter structural design of the RPV-30a, depicted in Figure 26, would give it a maximum flight time of over six hours, exceeding the program goal of four hours.

As with the Ibn-Firnas UAV programs, the Al Quds UAVs were intended to be capable of autonomous flight using global positioning system (GPS) navigation and a preprogrammed autopilot. The procurement network for avionics components for Al Quds was through Ibn-Firnas and was the same as that described in the previous section. However, the Al Quds program never progressed to the point of attempting a preprogrammed autonomous flight and never actually received the Micropilot MP2000 or 3200VG autopilots used in the Al Musayara- 20.


Huwaysh, Minister of Military Industrialization, and a former Ibn-Firnas engineer all reported electronic warfare missions for Al Quds UAVs. Electronic warfare missions include direction finding/signal intercept or communications and radar jamming. Huwaysh provided the most specific information, saying that an important lesson learned from the Iran-Iraq war was the importance of being able to intercept and jam enemy communications and radar signals.

  • Huwaysh provided a credible description of the value of UAVs for this role, discussing how they can be flown over enemy territory to get close to their targets, improving intercept and jamming effectiveness. Also, being cheap and unmanned, it would not be a major problem if they were shot down.
  • An Ibn-Firnas engineer speculated that either the Al Milad or Al Salam companies would develop the electronic warfare payloads; Huwaysh was specific that Al Milad was the developer.

A number of other sources indicate the intended payloads for the Al Quds UAVs were direction finding, communications, and radar jamming, as well as reconnaissance equipment.

  • Reportedly Dr. ?Imad did not know the intended payloads for his vehicles. Dr. ?Imad was only involved in developing the flight vehicle, but speculated that the payload would be reconnaissance equipment adapted from the Mirage fighter aircraft.
  • ISG judges the 30-kg payload variant would probably be sufficient for a passive receiver for communication or radar signal interception and direction finding, but the 100-kg payload would probably be required to house the transmitter and receiver required for a jamming platform.
  • Two lower level sources, one with direct and the other with indirect information on Al Quds, agreed with the reconnaissance mission of Al Quds, but the indirect source added that the Al Quds engineers were directed to leave an empty compartment in the fuselage approximately 40 cm wide by 70 cm long by 50 cm deep for an unspecified purpose. ISG judges this is probably the recovery parachute compartment.


The evidence accumulated by ISG indicates the Al Quds program was an initiative to meet an Iraqi military desire for airborne electronic warfare platforms. The overall program goal for Al Quds was to produce UAVs with 30-kg and 100-kg payload capabilities for communications and radar intercept and jamming missions.

ISG has uncovered no information connecting the Al Quds UAV program to delivery of weapons of mass destruction. However, successful development of the Al Quds UAVs would have provided Iraq with vehicles inherently capable of delivering biological (30-kg or 100-kg payload versions) or chemical (100-kg payload version) weapons. All of the prerequisites—range, autonomous programmable guidance, and payload—would have been present, ifthe Iraqis made a decision to use them for this purpose and ifthey developed a suitable agent dissemination system. However, ISG has uncovered no evidence of either made to order dispenser development or intent to use Al Quds for WMD.

The program began in late 1999 or early 2000 but was not declared to the UN until the January 2003 semi-annual declaration, after Iraq agreed to re-admit UN inspectors. A completed Al Quds UAV with a range capability beyond 150 km likely would constitute a violation of UN sanctions. However, when terminated by OIF, the program had not matured to the point where it achieved its full performance goals.


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