UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iraq Survey Group Final Report



Between the late 1980s and the start of Desert Storm in 1991, Iraq attempted to develop a range of systems for the dispersion of BW agent. In the dash to field viable BW weapons the workers in the program adapted robust bombs capable of mounting on many types of aircraft and warheads, including the Al Husayn missile. They also worked furiously to ready an aircraft spray system.

  • The scientists and engineers conducted weapons trials over some three years with both simulants and BW agents, on occasion using living animals as targets. Delivery systems tested included a helicopter-borne spray system, aerial bombs, artillery shells, multi-barrel rocket launchers, long-range missile warheads and an aircraft mounting of an adapted auxiliary fuel tank.
  • In the haste to prepare for the 1991 conflict, systems tried and tested with CW agents were preferred; the R-400 aerial bomb and the Al Husayn warhead, charged with anthrax, botulinum toxin and aflatoxin. Additionally, engineers at Al Muthanna rushed the auxiliary fuel tank, modified into a spray system, of the Mirage F1 aircraft into service (see Figure 12).
  • Prior to Desert Storm, Iraq had dedicated complimentary programs to develop spray technology that could effectively disseminate either CW or BW agents. These spray dispersal systems were intended for use in conjunction with various developmental unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) programs. Initial testing was quickly beginning to show progress by the time of Desert Storm. Since that time however, while their desire for these systems remained, their developmental work shifted focus. Due to the attention of the UNSCOM
    inspectors, the developmental effort shifted away from the more controversial spray technologies toward completing the longer range UAV goals.

ISG judges—with important reservations—that the former Regime clandestinely destroyed almost all of Iraq’s biological WMD and long-range missiles in 1991. Numerous interviews with high-ranking Iraqi political figures, WMD scientists, and military and security officers indicate that after a brief period of concealment in 1991, Iraqi leaders decided to destroy Iraq’s undeclared weapons stockpile in secret.

  • Shortly after the passage of Security Council Resolution 687 in early April 1991, Iraqi leaders also decided to erase all traces of the offensive BW program.
  • By the autumn of 1991, Iraq probably accomplished both the destruction of the weapons stockpile and surviving evidence of the BW program.
  • Interviews conducted by ISG have produced a reasonably coherent picture of this unilateral destruction, with few conflicting details, although important questions about the disposition of bulk BW agent and bacterial reference strains remain.
  • ISG judges that the former Regime destroyed most of its hidden stockpile of BW weapons. A few pre-1991 weapons probably either escaped destruction in 1991 or suffered only partial damage. It is thus possible that a few more will be found in the months and years ahead.

ISG bases its reservations on the following factors:

  • The security situation in Iraq has limited the physical verification of Iraq’s unilateral destruction claims—by excavating and counting weapon fragments, for example.
  • Many of the officials interviewed by ISG had previously lied–or told half-truths–to UNSCOM, and they may have lied to ISG as well, though ISG assesses that most were being open and truthful.
  • The continuing exploitation of Iraqi documents may produce evidence that contradicts the assertions of the Iraqi officials.
  • The efforts of the Iraqi Interim Government and Coalition forces may yet result in the discovery of unacknowledged WMD stockpiles left by the former Regime, though ISG judges this to be very unlikely.

ISG has not discovered any evidence that Iraq has conducted research or trials dedicated to the dispersion of BW agents since declaring its offensive program in 1995. Iraq pursued some delivery systems projects until OIF that could have provided some BW utility and whose origins lay in the development of BW and CW dispersion systems.

  • Iraq continued to develop delivery platforms for small payload weapons up to OIF. ISG has not identified any specific payloads for these systems. By their nature, these platforms were expensive and limited in number. They would have far greater utility for special weapons, such as BW or CW agent or radiological material, rather than conventional warheads. The Delivery Systems Team has reported on UAV that operate autonomously and remotely piloted vehicles (RPV) that were operated from a ground station. The L-29 RPV was the latest development of a concept that commenced in the Technical Research Center (TRC), the home of Iraq’s BW program in the late 1980s. After the L-29, Iraq continued to work on the development of UAVs and RPVs, the Al Quds being one example.
  • Although the Iraqis made significant initial progress in their spray dissemination programs, disregarding the definite adverse impact in their research from Desert Storm, they were still significantly short of the target goal. Perfecting just the sprayer technology—such as optimizing tank pressures, nozzle designs for droplet size and concentrations, together with determining operational flight envelopes—for use with either a chemical or a BW mission in mind was still years from fruition. The aircraft or UAV carrier platforms also were far from being completed. However, the “know-how” and the same “experts” still existed and the technology necessary is largely duplicative with agricultural uses. Therefore, it was potentially just a matter of iterative analysis and experimentation to achieve a capable CBW spray dissemination system.

Attempts at BW Weaponization

In common with much else in Iraq’s BW program, progress was steady and planned, except when the exigencies of impending war forced a convulsive change of pace and direction. Thus, having toxicological and production aspects in hand, some scientists and engineers turned their attention to weaponization. Starting with small-scale animal tests using small quantities of agent dispersed using a detonator in a confined space they progressed, step by step, toward full-scale weapons trials using viable BW agent. Dr. Rihab and her team, assisted by MIC consultants, evaluated many types of weapon. The initial trials were modest and used a BW agent simulant. Next, individual weapons charged with viable BW agent were fired statically. Eventually, trials used salvoes of rockets at their operating range. The rationale for the choice of weapon types and agents is a matter that, even now, Iraqis are reluctant to talk about. Al Muthanna organized the trials and advised on the weapons technology. As a result, the thinking appears to have followed CW lines. Until the imposed requirement to weaponize at pull speed in 1990, the latter field trials aimed at amassing data for the delivery of anthrax. This may have been an attempt to provide a means of denying ground in front of an invading enemy, and would parallel the use of CW agents such as mustard. Following the instruction from Husayn Kamil these trials stopped and efforts switched to longer range delivery systems such as aircraft bombs and sprays and ballistic missiles.

Aerial Bombs. Dr. Al Hindawi and Dr. Rihab state that their first weapons-related field trial consisted of the explosive detonation of two cylinders representing munitions containing a simulant. A trial using an Iraqi manufactured LD-250 aerial bomb charged with botulinum toxin followed in March 1988, using animals on a grid as a target. They reported repeating this trial later the same month.‘Zubaydi’ Helicopter Spray Device. As early as 1987 under the auspices of the residual Al Hasan BW program at Al Salman, Iraq started efforts to develop BW aerosol dissemination systems. Dr. Tariq Zubaydi, a university professor interested in “detecting bacterial organisms in the air,” coordinated these tests. He had proposed reverse engineering a nebulizer system. In time, his work led to developing better spray systems in support of his research. TRC was keen to exploit his research for BW purposes. The first known field test occurred in July 1988 at Khan Bani Sa’ad. These early tests involved rotary sprayers mounted on a helicopter.

Artillery Shells.According to one of the scientists involved in TRC’s Ricin program, Dr. Lu’ay Qasim, Al Muthanna technicians detonated four 155 mm artillery shells filled with the agent in a ground test at Jurf as Sakhr.

122 mm Multi-barrel Rockets.In the following year, 1989, the TRC team, assisted by Al Muthanna, was investigating the dispersion achieved by individual rounds and salvoes from 122 mm multi-barrel rocket launcher systems. Weapons were filled with Botulinum toxin, aflatoxin, wheat cover smut spores, and simulants.

Fixed-Wing Aircraft Spray Systems. The “Thu-al-Fiqar” project started in November 1990, soon after the publication of an Israeli newspaper article described how an aircraft with a biological weapon could kill the majority of a target population under favorable conditions. Husayn Kamil ordered Al Muthanna to develop a capability to disseminate a BW agent from an aircraft. As a result, two independent working groups were established; one group consisted of experts from Al Muthanna, the Technical Research Center (TRC) and the Iraqi Air Force, while the other group was restricted to the Military Research and Development Center (MRDC) at Baghdad’s Al Rashid Airfield. These projects may have their origins in CW rather than BW. In a letter dated 10 December 1990, Gen. Fa’iz Shahin, DG of Al Muthanna, writing to Husayn Kamil, referred to “successful tests of spraying mustard gas by planes which proved to be very effective.” This may account for the speed with which Al Muthanna was able to advance with this task.

  • Mirage F1 Auxiliary Fuel Tank Spray System. The Al Muthanna group worked on modifying Mirage F1 auxiliary fuel tanks to disperse the BW agent. The first tank modified contained an electric fuel valve adapted to feed agent through a crude venturi outlet. This tank was installed on a Mirage F1 and one field test was performed at Abu ‘Ubaydi Airfield near Al Kut. This unsuccessful test led to more tanks being modified for testing by adding two more valves and outlets and strengthening the structure of the tank. Various combinations of water with other additives were tested with differing degrees of success. It eventually was determined that under proper circumstances (correct combinations of additives and flight conditions), acceptable results were achieved (i.e., the liquid dispensed was deposited on the ground in the testing areas as planned). However, when simulated BW agents were then tested, the results were unsatisfactory.
  • MiG-21 RPV. A senior NMD official recently reported on his pre-OIF research of the 1990-91 MiG-21 RPV development project and the associated Mirage F-1 CBW spray tank project, as well as the later L-29 RPV project. The purpose of the research was to prepare the NMD to respond to urgent requirements from UNMOVIC. The NMD official said his investigation confirmed that the MiG-21 RPV had been intended for a mission to deliver CBW agents and that the Mirage F-1 project was a related effort to develop an aircraft-mounted CBW spray tank. While the MiG-21 RPV effort failed, the Mirage F-1 spray tank development, on the other hand, was considered successful. While varying in some minor details concerning the timing of some test events, this NMD official essentially corroborates the UNSCOM report.

The Gulf War

By the start of the 1991 Gulf war, Iraq had produced significant quantities of BW agents. The weaponization of these agents demonstrated a rudimentary understanding of BW weapons and agent dissemination. Dr. Mahmud Farraj Bilal Al Samarra’i, the Al Muthanna official who headed the effort to weaponize CBW agents, described this aspect of the BW program as ‘immature’. Iraq had no operational experience with these agents or BW weapons, had limited delivery systems to employ them, and had no practiced employment doctrine. Dr. Bilal’s philosophy was to adapt chemical weapons for BW agent use. Though Iraq had made initial efforts toward the development of more advanced aerosolization technologies, senior BW managers dismissed this approach in favor of tried and tested CW systems.

Based on an apparent press article, Husayn Kamil and his Deputy ‘Amir Hamudi Hasan Al Sa’adi directed a compartmented program to develop aircraft spray tanks and modify a MiG-21 jet aircraft into a remotely piloted vehicle (RPV). Iraq conducted several successful field trials using a modified 1,100-liter fuel tank mounted on aircraft. The UAV effort failed to reach an operational developmental prototype prior to 1991.

ISG recovered documents that provided insight into Iraq’s perceived success in BW weaponization. According to ‘Amir Al Sa’adi, who coincidentally evaluated Dr. Rihab’s professional work, he annotated her award nomination package in 2000 and cited the conventional explosive dissemination munitions, aerial bomb, artillery, and rockets as inactive. He judged efforts for spray system as not reaching weaponization with the research as incomplete.


Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list