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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Al Rafah / Shahiyat

The al-Rafah-North facility is Iraq's principal site for testing liquid propellant missile engines. According to the US Government, as of mid-2002 Iraq had been building a new, larger test stand there that is clearly intended for testing prohibited longer-range missile engines.

The Al Rafah Establishment, located at Jurf Al Sakhar some 60 km west of Baghdad (west of Karbala), was one of the production areas for the indigenous rocket engine program. The site also included facilities for the static testing of the indigenous liquid engines. UNSCOM teams destroyed engine production related equipment.

The effort to extend the ranges of not only the SA-2 and HY-2 but also the Scud-B was designated Project 144. The effort to reverse engineer the engines for these systems was known as Project 1728, located at the Shahiyat liquid-fuel motor plant and test facility at al-Rafah. The Al Faw cruise missile was an extended-range HY-2 Silkworm anti-ship missile. However, the maximum range for the Al Faw program was 200 km (125 miles), and appeared intended for use against ground targets. Iraq also apparently had a program for modifying Soviet-supplied surface-to-air missiles for use against ground targets. The SA-2 was to be modified into the Fahd 300 and 500; the SA-3 was to be used to produce the Baraq, and the SA-6 was to be used to produce the Kasir.

The Shahiyat site was also one of four associated with the Project 1728 (project 144/3, Mutawakeel project) production of Al Hussein class missile engines.

Construction at the Shahiyat site had not been completed by the time of the Gulf War. During the Offensive Ground Campaign's four days, which began on 24 February 1991, strategic air operations continued throughout Iraq and Kuwait. F-16s bombed the Shahiyat liquid fuel research and development facility. No actions were taken by UNSCOM to destroy the infrastructure, though it was under monitoring.

Al Rafah / Shahiyat was one of the targets of the US and British attacks which started 16 December 1998 after the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) in Iraq reported that Iraq was impeding UN inspections of Saddam's biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programs.

According to the British dossier Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction released in September 2002, intelligence had confirmed that Iraq wanted to extend the range of its missile systems to over 1000km, enabling it to threaten other regional neighbours. This work began in 1998, although efforts to regenerate the long-range ballistic missile programme probably began in 1995. Satellite imagery had shown a new engine test stand being constructed (A), which is larger than the current one used for al-Samoud (B), and that formerly used for testing SCUD engines (C) which was dismantled under UNSCOM supervision. This new stand woud have been capable of testing engines for medium range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) with ranges over 1000km, which are not permitted under UN Security Council Resolution 687. Such a facility would not be needed for systems that fall within the UN permitted range of 150km. According to the dossier, the Iraqis had recently taken measures to conceal activities at this site.

Source: Oct. 8, 2002, DoD Briefing on Iraqi Denial and Deception

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