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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Al Quds UAV Program

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 the Ibn-Firnas General Company, according to 'Abd-al-Tawab 'Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh, the former Minister of Military Industrialization, 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. When terminated by Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), the program had not matured to the point where it achieved its full performance goals.

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." The "long Arm" policy mentioned here referrs to Saddam's reaction to Iraq's inability to acquire new fighter or bomber aircraft, Iraq's inability to counter enemies' anti-aircraft missile technology and the vulnterability 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.

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 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.

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.

Reportedly the eight subscale Al Quds/RPV-20a 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.

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 would give it a maximum flight time of over six hours, exceeding the program goal of four hours.

Both Al Quds programs initially utilized microturbo engines. 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 later prototypes, RPV-20a and RPV-30a, however, both utilized piston engines as the initial jet projects failed.

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. ISG judged 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.

As with Ibn-Firnas's UAV program, ISG indicated that Al Quds UAVs were not intended for use with 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.

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Page last modified: 24-07-2011 04:43:23 ZULU