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Missile Last updated: February, 2013

Saddam Hussein's regime consistently sought to develop a long-range ballistic missile capability for both conventional purposes and the delivery of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). [1] Beginning in the mid-1980s, Iraq successfully modified Soviet Scud-B missiles to improve their range. Iraq's use of modified Scuds during the Iran-Iraq War contributed significantly to its victory, and the missiles thus earned a special status in Saddam's defense doctrine. Saddam's regime is believed to have fired more than 516 Scud-Bs and Al-Hussein missiles at Iran during the Iran-Iraq War,[2] and approximately 93 Al-Hussein and Al-Hijarah missiles at coalition forces during the 1991 Gulf War,[3] arguably giving it more combat experience launching ballistic missiles than any other state, including the United States.

The Persian Gulf War brought much of Iraq's missile program to a halt. Following Iraq's defeat in 1991, the UN Security Council implemented resolution 687, which prohibited Iraq from possessing ballistic missiles exceeding a 150km range.[4] Inspectors rapidly destroyed most of Iraq's missile capabilities. However, UN resolutions did not prohibit Iraq from retaining the scientists and infrastructure underpinning its past missile development successes. Continued monitoring would therefore be key to verifying that Iraq had not illicitly restarted its long-range missile efforts.

Saddam expelled inspectors from Iraq in late 1998. The inspection hiatus from 1999 to 2002 played a significant role in the Bush administration's belief that Iraq possessed both weapons of mass destruction and proscribed missile capabilities. Iraq yielded to increasing pressure to restart cooperation with inspectors by providing detailed information on the missile designs, expanded missile facilities, and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designs produced during the inspections reprieve. Although this new information was a step towards transparency, Iraq continued to provide inspectors with inaccurate and incomplete information. Forced to depart prematurely on the eve of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, inspectors were unable to determine the full extent of Iraq's missile program prior to the war. The U.S. Iraq Survey Group (ISG) later concluded that Saddam had intended to produce long-range delivery systems, potentially to deliver WMD, once the international community lifted the sanctions it had imposed on his regime. Supportive evidence of this assertion included Iraq's Jenin project, responsible for developing a cruise missile with a 1,000km range. [5]

Capabilities

Table 1 shows the basic design characteristics of Iraq's ballistic missile capabilities under the Saddam Hussein regime. One of the most notable features of Iraq's missile program was its extensive effort to reverse engineer Soviet Scuds and modify them to increase their effective range. Nearly all of Iraq's operational ballistic missiles were variants of the Scud-B, including the Al-Hussein, the Al-Abbas, and the Al-Hijarah missiles. All utilized liquid-fuel propulsion systems (kerosene fuel with red fuming nitric acid as the oxidizer), and crude guidance systems. Less impressively, Iraq's modifications to the missiles introduced flight stability problems. Al-Hussein missiles, for example, often fragmented upon atmospheric reentry. [6]

Although they were of poor accuracy by the U.S. arsenal's standards, Iraq's ballistic missiles caused significant destruction during the Iran-Iraq War. In early 1988, during the seven-week missile exchange between Baghdad and Tehran, Iraqi missiles killed approximately 2,000 Iranians and injured another 6,000. [7] More than two million people fled Tehran during this "war of the cities." Additionally, Iraqi Al-Hussein missile strikes caused 28 of the 148 U.S. personnel fatalities during the 1991 Gulf War. [8]

History

Initial Efforts, Soon Accelerated by Conflict with Iran: 1974 to 1989
Iraq began arming itself with short-range ballistic missiles in 1974, purchasing 819 Scud-B short-range ballistic missiles and 11 MAZ-543 transporter-erector-launchers (TELs) from the Soviet Union. [9] The USSR continued to supply Iraq with Scuds, support equipment, propellants, and conventional warheads throughout the 1970s and 1980s. [10]

However, with the commencement of hostilities between Iran and Iraq in 1980, the Scud-Bs' became strategically irrelevant. While Baghdad's proximity to the Iran-Iraq border enabled Iran to hit the Iraqi capital without modifying its Scud missiles, Tehran's distance from the border was twice the 300km range of Iraq's Scud-Bs. [11] Iraq therefore worked hurriedly to increase the Scud-Bs' range, and by 1988 the Al-Hussein variant (with a range of 650km), was operational. [12] Iraqi technicians achieved this greater range by cutting the fuel and oxidizer tanks in half, adding an additional section to each tank, and reducing the payload mass. [13] The Al-Hussein was also the only Iraqi missile to be loaded with unconventional warheads, both chemical and biological. [14]

Despite these initial successes, flight stability plagued Iraq's Scud modification program. In 1988, the Iraqis successfully test fired the Al-Abbas, a longer-range version of the Al-Hussein. However, they abandoned the program due to continued flight instability and poor missile guidance. [15] The Al-Hijarah configuration suffered from similar inadequacies, and was rarely used during the Persian Gulf War. [16]

In 1985, Iraq commenced a joint effort with Argentina and Egypt to develop a two-stage solid-fuel ballistic missile called the BADR-2000 (a.k.a., Condor II in Argentina) with an intended range of 1,000 km. [17] Each country played a different role in the program. Iraq financed the project, while Egypt assisted Argentina in procuring technology. Argentina also obtained procurement support from various western armament companies, primarily in Germany and Italy, and technical support from a consortium of sixteen European countries based in Switzerland. [18] Argentina was to develop the missile and then pass the technology to both Egypt and Iraq. However, disputes among the three countries left Iraq to continue the program on its own. By 1989, Iraq had spent at least $400 million on the project, but was unable to build the necessary facilities to produce the missile. [19] Following the Gulf War, Iraq declared to the United Nations that it had been unable to produce this missile, which inspectors later confirmed. [20]

Flying under the United Nations' Radar: the 1990s
Iraq began launching Al-Hussein and Al-Hijarah missiles at Coalition forces and Israel immediately following the start of the Coalition's air campaign in January 1991. The majority of Iraqi missiles launched during the war were Al-Husseins, but Iraq also fired 5 Al-Hijarahs. [21] The Iraqis claim to have fired 50 ballistic missiles at coalition forces and 43 at Israel. [22] The missiles' success rate is unclear, however, because many broke up upon reentry. Nonetheless, an Iraqi attack on a U.S. barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killed 28 military personnel and wounded more than 100. [23]

Following the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Iraq attempted to work within the boundaries of UNSCR 687's 150km range limit, while still maintaining its technical expertise and missile manufacturing capabilities. To do so, Iraq experimented with shorter-range surface-to-surface missiles, including the Ababil and the Al-Samoud.

The Ababil-100 was Iraq's attempt to produce a liquid-propellant design indigenously, and was slated to possess a range of 100-150km. [24] To alleviate problems with flight stability, technicians had to increase the missile's diameter from 500mm to 750mm. However, in 1994 the United Nations prohibited Iraq from producing missiles with a diameter greater than 600mm. Iraq therefore settled on a 600mm diameter design for the Ababil-100, and renamed it the Al-Samoud. During the inspections hiatus, beginning in late 1998, Iraq continued to improve the Al-Samoud design. In 2000, this missile work was redirected into the Al-Samoud II program. [25]

Flight tests of the Al-Samoud II began in 2001. The Iraqis claimed that the Al-Samoud II missile had a range of less than 150km, but they had in fact heightened the missile's range to a proscribed level and increased its diameter to 760mm in order to improve flight stability. In 2001, Iraq began stockpile production of the Al-Samoud II, with a goal of manufacturing 10 missiles per month. However, as a direct result of the technological limitations imposed by sanctions and previous monitoring, Iraq could not meet this goal. [26]

In February 2003, after restarting cooperation with UN inspectors, Iraq provided details on the Al-Samoud II program, including information about its increased diameter and engine burn time. [27] Initially reporting to inspectors that the Al-Samoud II's range did not exceed 150km, Iraq eventually admitted that the missile had surpassed this range in at least 13 flight tests. [28] Prior to the 2003 U.S. invasion, the UN ordered the destruction of the Al-Samoud II missiles, and subsequently supervised the destruction of 72 missiles and 3 launchers. [29] However, inconsistencies in Iraqi reporting and the premature withdrawal of UN inspectors from Iraq left the status of the Al-Samoud II unresolved.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and Cruise Missile Programs
In addition to its ballistic missile work in the 1990s, Iraq also pursued unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and cruise missiles. Although Iraq's various UAV programs date to the late 1980s, the most significant work occurred during the 1990s. [30] Initially, Iraq attempted to convert the Soviet MIG-21 aircraft into a UAV capable of delivering chemical and biological agents, but this program was unsuccessful and ended in 1991. Following the Gulf War, Iraq pursued two parallel indigenous UAV programs: the Ibn Fernas and the Al-Quds programs. The goal of the Ibn Fernas program was to design reconnaissance UAVs, while the Al-Quds program was meant to produce UAVs for airborne electronic warfare. Iraq declared both UAV programs to the UN in 2002, specifying that neither was intended to deliver WMD. However, the ISG claims the Al-Musayara-20 UAV produced in the Ibn Fernas program had the range, payload, and programmable autonomous guidance to deliver chemical or biological agents if directed to do so, while the Al-Quds could have been modified to deliver chemical or biological agents. [31]

Iraq also operated two cruise missile programs from 1998 to 2002. The first program attempted to convert the HY-2 anti-ship cruise missile into a land-attack system, and to increase the missile's range from 100km to 150-180km. In one flight test, the missile reportedly reached a range of 168km, thus exceeding the 150km limit. [32] While Iraq declared this program in 1996 and 2002, it failed to reveal the program's intention to extend the missile's range. [33] Ten of the modified missiles were delivered to the Iraqi military prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Iraqi forces ultimately fired five during the campaign, none of which were detected. [34]

The second and more ambitious cruise missile program—called Jenin—entailed converting the HY-2 into a 1000km-range land-attack system. Saddam approved the concept in late November 2001. To achieve such a significant increase in range, the Jenin program involved replacing the HY-2's liquid rocket engine with a Russian helicopter's turbine engine. Iraq halted the program roughly one year later, immediately prior to the November 2002 return of UNMOVIC inspectors, and without achieving much notable success. [35]

Recent Developments and Current Status

The Iraq Survey Group concluded that post-1991 sanctions and monitoring had effectively eliminated Iraq's ability to purchase or produce a long-range ballistic missile capability. However, the ISG report also asserted that Saddam Hussein never fully intended to give up his pursuit of long-range missiles, and pointed to Iraqi investments in technology and infrastructure, retention of experienced scientists, and long-range designs on the books to support this claim. [36]

Overall, U.S. intelligence on Iraq's missile programs proved more accurate than pre-war WMD intelligence. When the U.S. Senate Select Committee released its March 2005 report on the Intelligence Community's (IC) prewar intelligence assessments, it commended the IC for its accurate assessment of the number of Scud-type ballistic missiles in Saddam's possession, as well as intelligence on the Al-Samoud ballistic missile, tempering this praise with the admonition that the IC had overstated the capability of Iraq's small UAV program to serve as a delivery vehicle for biological agents. [37] Iraq' use of cruise missiles during the 2003 invasion was also a complete surprise to coalition forces.

The post-Saddam Hussein government has not publicly declared an interest in reconstituting Iraq's missile programs. However, this may change when Iraq becomes more militarily independent; currently, U.S. troops are scheduled to depart Iraq by 2011. In a letter to the UN Security Council dated 16 January 2010, Iraq announced its intention to sign the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC). [38]

Sources:
[1] "Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq's WMD," Central Intelligence Agency, No. 2, 30 September 2004, p.1, www.cia.gov.
[2] Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, "Iraq's Missile Program," www.iraqwatch.org.
[3] United Nations Special Commission, "Report on the Status of Disarmament and Monitoring," S/1999/94, 19 January 1999, www.un.org.
[4] The fact that this UN resolution refers to ballistic and not cruise missiles led to some initial confusion that was subsequently clarified by US officials as also prohibiting cruise missile range extension beyond 150km.
[5] "Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq's WMD," Central Intelligence Agency, No. 2, 30 September 2004, p.2, www.cia.gov.
[6] U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, "Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq: Conclusions," 29 March 2005, www.wmd.gov.
[7] U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, "Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq: Conclusions," 29 March 2005, www.wmd.gov.
[8] U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, "Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq: Conclusions," 29 March 2005, www.wmd.gov.
[9] Global Security, "Iraq Special Weapons-Scuds," www.globalsecurity.org.
[10] Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr. and Seth W. Carus, "Iraq's Al-Husayn Missile Program," Jane's' Soviet Intelligence Review, May 1990, p. 204.
[11] Federation of American Scientists, "Al Hussein/al-Husayn," www.fas.org.
[12] Federation of American Scientists, "Al Hussein/al-Husayn," www.fas.org.
[13] "Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq's WMD," Central Intelligence Agency, No. 2, 30 September 2004, p.3, www.cia.gov.
[14] Prior to the Gulf War, Iraq prepared at least 25 Al-Hussein missiles tipped with chemical warheads. According to the ISG, Iraq possessed a total of 80 warheads for such use, including 50 chemical warheads, 25 biological warheads and 5 warheads for chemical weapons testing. For more information, see: Federation of American Scientists, "Chemical Weapons Program: History," www.fas.org; Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, "Iraq's Missile Program," www.iraqwatch.org.
[15] "Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq's WMD," Central Intelligence Agency, No. 2, 30 September 2004, p.4, www.cia.gov.
[16] U.S. Department of Defense Information Paper, "Iraq's Scud Ballistic Missiles," 25 July 2000, www.gulflink.osd.mil.
[17] Kenneth Katzman, Kenneth Timmerman and Seth Carus, "Appendix III: Unclassified Working Papers: Iran and Iraq," Commission to Assess Ballistic Missile Threats to the United States, 23 March 1998, www.fas.org.
[18] U.S. Department of Defense Information Paper, "Iraq's Scud Ballistic Missiles," 25 July 2000, www.gulflink.osd.mil.
[19] Anthony H. Cordesman, "The Great Iraqi Missile Mystery: The Military Importance of the Ababil, Al Samoud II, Al Fatah, Badr 2000 and Al Huysayn," Center for Strategic and International Studies, 25 February 2003, pp. 8-10, www.csis.org; Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, "Iraq's Missile Program," www.iraqwatch.org.
[20] "Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq's WMD," Central Intelligence Agency, No. 2, 30 September 2004, p.3, www.cia.gov.
[21] U.S. Department of Defense Information Paper, "Iraq's Scud Ballistic Missiles," 25 July 2000, www.gulflink.osd.mil.
[22] Iraq fired approximately 90 missiles during the Gulf War, but various government agencies and organizations have reported different figures. Errors in U.S. surveillance and Patriot missile defense systems (which sometimes registered false positives), likely account for these discrepancies. For more information see, U.S. Department of Defense Information Paper, "Iraq's Scud Ballistic Missiles," 25 July 2000, www.gulflink.osd.mil.
[23] U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, "Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq: Conclusions," 29 March 2005, www.wmd.gov.
[24] Federation of American Scientists, "Ababil-100/Al Samoud," www.fas.org; United Nations Special Commission, "Third Report Under Resolution 1051," S/1997/301, 11 April 1997, www.un.org.
[25] "Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq's WMD," Central Intelligence Agency, No. 2, 30 September 2004, p.9, www.cia.gov.
[26] "Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq's WMD," Central Intelligence Agency, No. 2, 30 September 2004, p.14, www.cia.gov.
[27] Federation of American Scientists, "Ababil-100/Al Samoud," www.fas.org.
[28] "Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq's WMD," Central Intelligence Agency, No. 2, 30 September 2004, p.14, www.cia.gov.
[29] Global Security, "Al-Samud," www.globalsecurity.org.
[30] United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission, "Unresolved Disarmament Issues: Iraq's Proscribed Weapons Programs, UNMOVIC Working Document," 6 March 2003, p. 13, www.un.org.
[31] "Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq's WMD," Central Intelligence Agency, No. 2, 30 September 2004, p. 41, www.cia.gov.
[32] "Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq's WMD," Central Intelligence Agency, No. 2, 30 September 2004, p. 39, www.cia.gov.
[33] United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission, "The Development of Iraq's Missile Capabilities," S/2003/1135, November 2003, p. 17, www.globalsecurity.org.
[34] While five of the 10 Iraqi cruise missiles furnished to the Iraqi military were fired during the war, 33 other HY-2 cruise missiles were found intact after the war. see Dennis M. Gormley, "Missile Defence Myopia: Lessons from the Iraq War," Survival, Vol. 45, No. 4 (Winter 2003-04), pp. 61-86, http://cns.miis.edu.
[35] Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, "Iraq's Missile Program," www.iraqwatch.org; "Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq's WMD," Central Intelligence Agency, No. 2, 30 September 2004, pp. 39-41, www.cia.gov.
[36] "Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq's WMD," Central Intelligence Agency, No. 2, 30 September 2004, p. 2, www.cia.gov.
[37] U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, "Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq: Conclusions," 29 March 2005, www.wmd.gov.
[38] UN Security Council, "Security Council Presidential Statement Welcomes Steps Taken by Iraq to Support International Non-proliferation Regime, Comply with Disarmament Treaties," Press Release SC/9871, 26 February 2010, www.un.org.

Design Characteristics of Iraqi Ballistic Missiles[1]

  Length (m) Diameter (m) Warhead wt. (kg) Range (km) Accuracy - CEP (m) Propellant
Scud-B 11.50 0.88 1000 300 1000 Liquid
Al-Hussein [2] 11.20 0.89 300-350 600-650 3200 Liquid
Al-Abbas 14.51 0.89 140-250 800-900 5000 Liquid
Al-Hijarah Unknown Unknown 250 750 Unknown Liquid
Al-Samoud 7.7 0.5 300 150-168 Unknown Liquid
Ababil Unknown 0.40-0.60 300 130-150 Unknown Liquid
BADR-2000 10.30 .80 350 1000 30-50 Solid
Al-Abid (SLV) 25 Unknown Unknown 3000 Unknown Liquid

Sources:
[1] Federation of American Scientists, "Missiles: Iraq Special Weapons," www.fas.org; U.S. Department of Defense Information Paper, "Iraq's Scud Ballistic Missiles," 25 July 2000, www.gulflink.osd.mil; U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, "Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq: Conclusions," 29 March 2005, www.wmd.gov.
[2] These figures represent the majority of the Al-Hussein's deployed. However, Iraq continuously modified the Al-Hussein prior to the Persian Gulf War to enhance its capabilities for specific purposes, including supporting chemical and biological warheads. Such modifications would have altered the missile's physical characteristics. For more information see: Federation of American Scientists, "Al Hussein/al-Husayn," www.fas.org.

 

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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents.

Get the Facts on Iraq

  • Nuclear weapons program comprehensively dismantled by the IAEA from 1991 to 1997
  • Used chemical weapons against Iran and its Kurdish population during the 1980s
  • Pursued offensive biological weapon capabilities from 1985 until the 1990s