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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Ababil-100 / Al Fatah

One major development of Iraq's military industry included Multiple Rocket Launch Systems (MLRS). Local variants of the Luna-M (FROG-7A) had their range extended from 70,000 to 90,000 meters. Iraq experimented with eight different MRLS using a wide range of technologies from around the globe to come up with an Iraqi system for mass-production and export.

The Ababil-50, Iraq's precursor to the Ababil-100, was developed in 1980 when Iraq and Yugoslavia agreed to develop and produce a small battlefield artillery rocket. The rocket was called the Ababil-50 in Iraq and the Orkan M-87 in Yugoslavia. The Ababil-50 inspired an interest in solid-propellant missiles.

The crown jewel in Iraq's MLRS manufacturing capability was the locally produced Ababil-100 [ABABEEL] system, later renamed Al-Fat'h. This program was based in part on the Ababil-50, with an initial goal of achieving a range of 100 km.Research and development on this program continued through 2002. The 400 mm Ababil-100 is a truck mounted MLRS with a four round capability. Each rocket fired by the ABABEEL reportedly carries a warhead capable of dispensing 300 anti-tank bomblets and 25 anti-tank minelets. The "Ababil-100" is designed to have a range of 130 to 140km. According to one former UN inspector, the Al Ababil "looks like a BADR 2000 Junior." The Ababil does not appear to have been flight tested.

Around August 1991, Iraq started a secret project to construct a surface-to-surface missile called "J-1" without notifying the UN Special Commission [UNSCOM] as required by the Security Council resolutions. There were key similarities between the J-1 missile and the Fahad missiles that were under development in Iraq before the adoption of resolution 687 (1991). Iraq's development of the J-1 surface-to-surface missile was based on the Volga/SA2 surface-to-air missile with certain modifications, particularly to its engine and guidance and control system. During the period when work on the J-1 project was ongoing, UNSCOM inspectors were told by Iraq that it was merely developing a non-proscribed Ababil-100 missile that it had declared to UNSCOM. As it is known now, the Ababil 100 had some specifications similar to the J-1. [SOURCE ]

Iraq continued to work on the two SRBM systems with ranges of less than 150 km authorized by the United Nations: the liquid-propellant Al-Samoud, and the solid-propellant Ababil-100. Personnel previously involved with the Condor II/Badr-2000 missile-which was largely destroyed during the Gulf war and eliminated by UNSCOM-are working on the Ababil-100 program. Had economic sanctions against Iraq been lifted, Baghdad probably would have began converting these efforts into longer range missile systems, unless restricted by future UN monitoring.

On 25 August 2000 a spokeswoman for the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) - Germany's foreign intelligence agency - claimed that some 250 technicians were currently working on the Ababil-100 ballistic missile at the Al Mamoun facility (southwest of Baghdad).

By the late 1990s, Iraq had a number of rocket systems that had reached the end or exceeded their shelf life and needed refurbishment, including precursors to the Ababil-100 still in Iraq's arsenal: the FROG-7 (LUNA) and Ababil-50. Iraq was not able to acquire replacement systems from abroad or get help for the refurbishment effort; it had to rely on domestic capabilities. In 2000-2001, Iraq began a "re-motor" project to extend the shelf life of its FROG-7 (LUNA) and Ababil-50 battlefield artillery rockets by replacing their aging double-base solid rocket motors with more energetic composite solid-propellant motors. Renamed Al Ra'ad and Al Nida', respectively, these efforts helped advance the composite solid infrastructure in Iraq. It is unclear if these projects were completed by the time of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Composite propellants offered higher energy than double-base propellants, so the re-motor effort renewed the shelf life and improved performance of the rockets.

According to the British dossier Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction released in September 2002, it was unclear whether chemical and biological warheads had been developed for the al-Samoud/Ababil-100 ballistic missiles but given the Iraqi experience on other missile systems, the British government was judging that Iraq had the technical expertise for doing so. Production of the solid propellant Ababil-100 was also underway, probably as an unguided rocket at this stage. There were also plans to extend its range to at least 200km.

In February 2003, U.N. weapons inspectors evaluated the Al Fatah and, using computer models, assessed that the missile was capable of flying 150 kilometers. One configuaration was declared by Iraq to have flown 161 kilometers in tests. However, the U.N. inspectors declined to announce a formal conclusion on the missile pending verification of Iraqi declarations. The inspectors also noted that 32 Al Fatah had already been deployed with army units.

Al Fat'h

Despite the limitations imposed by the UN sanctions and the international arms embargo, Iraq was able to produce and field the domestically designed Al Fat'h composite solid-propellant ballistic missile. The goal of the program, which commenced in June 1997, was to develop a missile that could deliver a 300-kg payload to a range of 150 km with an accuracy of 150 meters Circular Error Probable (CEP). The accuracy requirement for an unguided version of the Al Fat'h was 750 meters CEP. The Al Fat'h program began under the Ababil-100 project in the early 1990s. By 1994 the liquid- and solid-propellant missile development programs under Ababil-100 had split, and the solid-propellant program retained the Ababil-100 name. The Iraq Survey Group (ISG) concluded that the Al Fat'h was used with a unitary High Explosive (HE) warhead or a Submunition warhead, and was not intened for Chemical or Biological Weapon (CBW) use.

The Al Fat'h missile was a solid-propellant ballistic missile weighing approximately 1,200 kg with an overall length of approximately 6.7 meters and a diameter of 0.5 meter for the main body and 1.4 meters with the aft fin assembly. While forward canards were used on a number of missile test flights, they were not used on the Al Fat'hs provided to the Army, and none have been noted on the Al Fat'hs captured to date. The airframe was primarily constructed from 4 mm thick 30CrMoV9 sheet steel. While 30CrMoV9 proved difficult to form, the extensive use of this alloy throughout the airframe simplifies missile construction. Although not available, maraging steel would have been the preferred material. The aft fin assemblies and nose cones were constructed of aluminum. The Al Fat'h was designed to be launched from a Transporter-Erector-Launcher (TEL). Based upon the SA-2/Volga missile launcher, the Al Fat'h missile was mounted in a launcher-storage box with an integral launcher rail.

For propulsion, the Al Fat'h utilized a motor that weighed between 770 kg and 856 kg, based on varying reports and because of variations in motor insulation. ISG believed that the variations in propellant mass suggest that the final design for the missile was not frozen. Manufacturing the Al Fat'h solid-propellant motor presented several challenges. Specifically, Iraq lacked preferred materials for the motor case and insufficient solid-propellant mixing capacity. Iraq lacked maraging steel sheets of sufficient size and quantity to manufacture Al Fat'h motor cases. Without maraging steel, the Al Fat'h motor case had to be constructed from 30CrMoV9 sheet steel. Difficulties in forming and aligning the cylindrical shapes needed for the rocket motor cases from this material led to large miss distances, according to a senior official in the Iraqi missile program.

In addition, Iraq lacked sufficient propellant mixing capacity. The mixers and bowls acquired in the late 1980s for the BADR-2000 program would have sufficed, but these were not available. Instead, the Iraqis were forced to use four or five smaller 30-gallon bowls to mix the propellant needed for a single Al Fat'h motor, according to a senior official (see picture below). These bowls, using two mixers, were then poured sequentially into the motor casing. While one senior Iraqi official stated the process worked well, he also admitted one out of every 10 motors exploded during motor burn. The use of multiple bowls presented the potential for uneven curing of the propellant and inconsistent motor performance. This process also eliminated the possibility of multiple simultaneous motor castings. The composition of the solid propellant fuel is located in the table below:

Al Fat’h Propellant Formulation
Compound % by mass
Ammonium Perchlorate (AP) (200-Micron Particle Size) 35
Ammonium Perchlorate (AP) (50-80 Micron Particle Size) 35
Aluminum Powder (< 200 Micron particle Size) 14
Hydroxy Terminated Poly Butadiene (HTPB) 11-12
Dioctyl Azelate (DOZ) - or - Dioctyl Adepate (DOA) 3.5
Ferric Oxide 1
2,4-Toluene Diisocyanate (TDI) ~1
Tri[1-(2-Methyl Aziridinyl)] Phosphine Oxide (MAPO) 0.3

The two planned Al Fat'h missiles utilized different guidence systems. The unguided Al Fat'h used simple aft stabilization fins. The guided version of the Al Fat'h would have had a relatively complicated control system, with canards, actuators, and a strapdown INS with an indigenously developed computer and imported gyroscopes and accelerometers. Iraq specified an INS accuracy of 1 degree per hour drift, which is relatively sophisticated. Iraq also considered using Global Positioning System (GPS) guidance. ISG estimated that this guidence system would have allowed Iraq to achieve its desired CEP figure of 150 m at a range of 150 km. In order to acquire these guidence systems, Iraq had to look to outside vendors. Iraq reportedly received a sample inertial system from the FRY, but it was considered inadequate and of poor quality. There reportedly were 50 G&C sets delivered from Belarus prior to the start of OIF, according to a source with good access. Despite the lag in procuring the INS and testing delays, design work on the G&C for the Al Fat'h was well under way prior to OIF. Two guided flight tests were conducted prior to the war, one with roll control and a second with pitch control. According to a high-level official within the missile program, in March 2003, Iraq was only a matter of weeks from conducting a test flight with a full control system (equipped with INS and canards). ISG believes that Iraq did not conduct this flight test because, in December 2002, the UN had ordered that Iraq cease all missile tests until further notice.

The Al Fat'h utilized both a unitary HE and submunition warhead. The HE warhead was identical to that used by the Al Samud liquid-fueled missile, which had been derived from the Scud HE warhead. The HE payload mass varied between 260 kg and 300-kg and contained 160-170-kg of HE. The submunition warhead was, however, deemed to be more effective than unitary HE because they would have a larger lethal footprint and reduce concerns over poor missile accuracy. Iraq researched a variety of different configurations for the Al Fat'h submunition warhead before finally arriving at a design containing 850-900 submunitions. These submunitions were based on FRY anti-personnel/anti-tank KB-1 submunition identical to those used in the Ababil-50 submunition payload (see below for picture of KB-1). Experiments using a live burster charge were conducted in April and August 2002 and successfully dispersed 850 submunitions over an area of a 600-meter radius

The KB-1 submunition is an open-ended tube, housing a copper-shaped charge. Upon detonation, the body fragments and scatters the ball bearings surrounding the outer shell, and the shaped charge fires, projecting the jet forward to penetrate the target. Typically, the submunitions contain 30 g of explosives. In practice, the height of burst for submunition dispersal was approximately 2 km (2 km +/- 500 m), according to an official within the Iraqi missile program. Even with knowledge of the target terrain, such a loose tolerance is undesirable.

In operation, the warhead is armed by the action of the "G" Switch through a sustained acceleration of 7.5 G for a minimum of 2.5 seconds. A barometric sensor detects altitude; when the missile ascends to a height of 5.5 km, a thermal battery is connected, charging the capacitors within the firing circuit. As the missile descends through 3 km, the capacitors discharge providing power to the detonator, which in turn initiates the detonation cord and the booster rod.

ISG determined that neither the HE nor submunition warhead were intended for CBW usage. ISG judged that it was not possible to modify the KB-1 submunition to accommodate chemical or biological agents because of the submunitions' small internal volume and risk of agent fratricide from the explosive charge. Although no unconventional warheads were to be developed for the Al Fat'h missile, as a direct extrapolation of the Scud conventional warhead design, the Al Fat'h HE warhead inherited the same primitive design that could allow modification to accommodate bulk-filled chemical or biological agents. Iraq retained the intellectual capital for reproducing the crude "special" warhead (CBW) design for the Al Husayn missile, so modification and production of this type of warhead could be achieved in a matter of weeks with a relatively small team of specialized individuals.

The Al Fat'h test program, conducted between early 2000 and late 2002, consisted of approximately 50 individual firings, about 17 static motor tests and about 33 or 34 flight tests. The testing program passed through various phases as the emphasis shifted from motor performance and basic flight characteristics, to accuracy, reliability, and missile acceptance testing. Flight-testing began in 2000 and ended in late 2002. By mid-2001 to late 2002, Al Fat'h flight tests provided relatively consistent range performance using inert, submunition, and unitary HE warheads. The last two flight tests constituted the acceptance tests for the unguided variant of the missile. The flight-test program did have difficulties and never achieved the 750-meter CEP expected for the unguided airframe. The system also experienced a high failure rate during testing with 30% ending in failure and 10% of the motors experiencing catastrophic failure during firing. At least six missiles fired during OIF would have exceeded the 150 km range if not intercepted. The longest test flight declared by Iraq was 161 km, while the longest combat range probably would have exceeded this range.

In terms of material procurement, ISG estimated that Iraq's ability to field the Al Fat'h was dependant on its ability to build motors. Although fewer warheads were built (see chart below), this can be explained by the use of inert warheads during many flight tests, thus requiring fewer live warheads for the program. ISG estimated that Iraq had between 50 and 60 Al Fat'h missiles available at the onset of OIF. During the war, Iraq fired between 12 and 16 Al Fat'h missiles. In addition, informal assessments of Al Fat'hs destroyed or damaged during the war vary from four to 13. To date, Coalition forces have collected at least 10 Al Fat'hs. Given the above numbers, the number of Al Fat'h missiles unaccounted for could vary from 0 to 34 (see table below). However, ammunition and weapon systems are being collected and destroyed all over Iraq, and a number of Al Fat'hs have been misidentified as FROG-7 or ASTROS battlefield rockets. A full accounting of Al Fat'h missiles may not be possible.

Al Fat'h Component Production
Component 2000 2001 2002 2003 Total
Warheads 0 18 61   79
7 28 57   92
13 31 66   110
Missile Accepted in QC Inspections
33 ? 95

Al Fat'h Missile Accounting
  Worst Case Average Best Case
Missiles Available to Army
60 45 30
Missiles fired 12 14 16
Missiles damaged/destroyed
4 8 13
Missiles Captured 10 10 10
Unaccounted for 34 13 0

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Page last modified: 24-07-2011 04:43:03 ZULU