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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iraq Survey Group Final Report


Ceramic Warhead Effort?

ISG has no credible evidence that Iraq was pursuing ceramic warheads for use as CBW warheads. Ceramic’s poor heat-resistant properties negate its use with conventional, chemical, and biological warheads. While ceramic warheads may retain dimensional stability during aerodynamic heating, they also transfer this heat directly to the payload. Therefore, extremely elaborate techniques would be required to cool any CBW warhead and would, at least, require thermal insulation for conventional warheads. One source assessed by the collector as likely being motivated by financial incentives claimed that Iraqi scientists were working on developing ceramic warheads designed for filling with chemical agents and mounting on missiles within a few hours. The source added that the Badr General Company made “a few” of these warheads. There is no evidence to support these claims, and ISG judges that the source’s statements are not credible.

  • While ceramic materials are heat resistant and relatively inert to most chemicals, working with this material is complicated. The US and the UK investigated using ceramic warheads for ballistic missiles in the 1970s, but these investigations were not pursued.
  • A ceramic warhead would have better in-flight dimensional stability during re-entry compared to ablative warheads. Dimensional stability during flight directly relates to aerodynamic stability and increased accuracy. However, increased costs associated with manufacturing and handling ceramic warheads outweigh the benefits.
  • Producing consistent ceramic formulations is still an art, and machining ceramic materials to a desired shape on a consistent basis is notoriously difficult. Ceramic warheads must also be handled with care, which necessitates entirely new procedures for use and training.

ISG recovered ceramic nose cone pieces which were not sufficient to form a complete nose cone. However, initial examination of these ceramic pieces shows a right cone at the tip followed by a transition to an ogive shape, which is similar to a SA-6 nose cone. These may have been subscale models or may be totally unrelated to ballistic missiles.


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