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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Al Hussein / al-Husayn
Al Hijarah

During 1988-90, the Iraqis made strides in their indigenous rocket program, which was centered on upgrading the performance of the Scud. Tehran, some 300 miles from the Iran-Iraq border, was outside the range of the unmodified Scud-B, which can travel a maximum distance of 300 km. To overcome this deficiency, Iraq extended the range of the Scud twice, apparently relying heavily on foreign technical assistance and equipment.

The first upgrade, called the al-Husayn, had a range of 600-650 km, allowing strikes on Tehran. This rocket was modified through a reduction of the payload to approximately 300 to 350 kilograms. Some 11.20 meters in length and 0.90 meters in diameter, the Al Hussein corresponds more or less to the SCUD-B (length: 11.50 meters; diameter: 0.88 meters). The al-Husayn would also put most of Israel and all of Syria within striking range. Sixty of these missiles were fired at Saudi Arabia and Israel during January and February 1991.

In late March 1990, there were press reports that Iraq had completed construction of six fixed-site missile launchers for its al-Husayn missiles at the H-2 airfield in western Iraq, near the Jordanian border. (1) Although a fixed launcher provides for greater accuracy than a mobile launcher, it is also much more vulnerable to attack. The majority of Iraq's Scud and Scud-variant missiles were launched from mobile transporter-erector-launchers, or the towed al-Waleed launcher.

In its efforts to extend the range of the imported SCUD B missiles, Iraq used simple techniques which did not add significantly to its missile technology base. However, its reverse-engineering efforts included the acquisition of sophisticated production machinery and technology as well as the acquisition from various suppliers of components for missile systems. In particular, Iraq gained expertise in missile propulsion systems and their propellants, guidance and control and airframe production technologies, and acquired the hardware for high-precision machining. Iraq was not successful in its efforts to acquire an indigenous capability to produce indigenously entire missile systems through its reverse-engineering efforts. [S/1995/284]

Following the successful development of the Al Hussein from imported SCUD missiles, Iraq undertook to produce these missiles indigenously. Iraq procured, through importation, the necessary components, production equipment and tooling. In early 1990, Iraq established a production goal of 200 missiles. Iraq intended to eventually produce 1000 missiles. By April 1991, Iraq had made significant progress in its indigenous production efforts. Iraq successfully manufactured and tested virtually all major components for its indigenous missiles with the exception of gyroscopes. Iraq had contracts for the foreign procurement of gyroscopes. It also retained some original imported gyroscopes until the last quarter of 1995. Iraq conducted 12 static tests and four flight tests of indigenously produced engines. Several of these tests were successful. [UNSCOM]

In 1988, Iraq initiated the development of a supersonic parachute recovery system for the Al Hussein missile warhead. The program continued through 1990. Iraq approached at least three different companies for the development, production and supply of the system. However, no systems were provided to Iraq. [S/1995/284]

A variant of the Al Husayn was also produced, known as the Al Husayn Short. According to unconfirmed information of October 1990, Iraq was producing missiles for use against oil wells and people. The "Al Hijarah" missiles would release poison clouds that would kill personnel on the ground and ignite oil wells. The Iraqis claimed to have fired at least one of another SCUD variant, the Al Hijarah, which apparently had a concrete-filled warhead, at Israel during Operation Desert Storm. A total of four or five of these Al Husayn missile variants were probably fired during the Gulf War, including at least one Al Hijarah which landed in the Negev Desert near the Israeli nuclear facility near Dimona.

As of 1996, UNSCOM maintained that Iraq was still concealing six to sixteen enhanced Scud missiles, potentially able to deliver chemical or biological warheads. These Al Hussein missiles eluded UNSCOM inspectors, along with as many as 20 long-range missile warheads produced before 1991 specifically to carry biological weapons. By 1996 UNSCOM concluded that Iraq had produced 80 Scud-like missiles indigenously -- thereby placing in doubt UNSCOM's initial overall count of Iraq's original missile inventories. UNSCOM teams visiting in 1996 were unable to locate hidden missiles but UNSCOM continued to investigate Iraq's methods of concealment.

In mid-1996, a general officer defector from Iraq said that he believed Saddam Hussein had retained some 40 Scud-type missiles. After UNSCOM unwillingly withdrew from Iraq in 1998, some estimated that Iraq could resume production of Al Hussein missiles within one year. According to a United States government white paper in 1998, Iraq maintained a small force of Scud-type missiles and may have pieced together Scuds by integrating original guidance and control systems it concealed from UNSCOM with parts produced in Iraq.

In February 2000, Uzi Rubin, a member of Israel's National Security Council and former head of Israel's Homa anti-missile defence program, aserted that Iraq had 50 Al Hussein missiles. He told the Israel Annual Conference on Aerospace Sciences on 24 February that the Iraqi regime had managed to conceal the missiles, which could be deployed at short notice. [Jane's Defence Weekly, March 1, 2000]

According to the British dossier Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction released in September 2002, Iraq had told UNSCOM that it had filled 25 warheads with anthrax, botulinum toxin and aflatoxin. Iraq also developed chemical agent warheads for al-Hussein and had admitted to producing 50 chemical warheads for al-Hussein which were intended for the delivery of a mixture of sarin and cyclosarin. However,technical analysis of warhead remnants had shown traces of VX degradation product which indicated that some additional warheads were made and filled with VX.

That same dossier concluded that, according to intelligence, Iraq had retained up to 20 al-Hussein missiles in breach of UN Security Council Resolution 687. These missiles were either hidden from the UN as complete systems, or re-assembled using illegally retained engines and other components. The British government judged that the engineering expertise available would allow these missiles to be maintained effectively, although the fact that at least some require re-assembly made it difficult to judge exactly how many could be available for use.

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Page last modified: 24-07-2011 04:43:14 ZULU