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IRAQ'S AL-HUSAYN MISSILE PROGRAMME

by W. Seth Carus and Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr.

Jane's Intelligence Review, Vol. 2, No. 5

May 1, 1990

 

Editor's note: This two-part article by Seth Carus and Joseph Bermudez provides the most detailed account yet published of the Iraqis' efforts to develop ballistic missiles. Part 1 deals with Iraq's ballistic missile programmes in outline, and the development and technical characteristics of the Al-Husayn. Part 2, to be published in the June issue of Jane's Soviet Intelligence Review, covers the operational employment of the Al-Husayn during the 1988 'War of the Cities', the future of the Al-Husayn, and the longer-range Al-Abbas and Tammuz 1 missiles. This article seems particularly relevant following the seizure in London on 28 March of nuclear weapon triggering devices reportedly on their way to Iraq.

On 29 February 1988, an Iraqi missile struck Tehran, 600 km from the Iran-Iraq border. Until then, Tehran had been immune from Iraqi missile attacks, since Iraq's missiles lacked the range needed to cover such long distances. Over the course of the next seven weeks, atotal of 189 of the missiles were fired at Iranian cities during a campaign known as the War of the Cities.

The missile that Iraq employed was an upgraded version of the 'Scud B' (original Soviet designation was R-17, but this was subsequently changed to R-300) known as the Al-Husayn. This missile, which was designed and built in Iraq, albeit with considerable foreign assistance, had a range of 600 km, more than double that of the 'Scud B'.

A considerable amount of information concerning the Al-Husayn is now available. Although there is much that we still do not know about the missile and the efforts to develop it, enough is known to debunk some widely circulated myths. For example, it is commonly reported that the Al-Husayn used strap-on boosters, a misconception clearly contradicted by photographs of the missile. This article will attempt to correct such myths, and at the same time make clear what is and what is not known about the Al-Husayn.

Iraq's Ballistic Missile Programmes

Iraq has several ballistic missile programmes. The best known is the 'Scud' upgrade program, which resulted in the Al-Husayn missile described here. This initiative drew on Iraq's familiarity with the 'Scud B'. The Soviet Union first supplied Iraq with the 'Scud B'in the early 1970s, and several hundred more were delivered during the war.

In addition, Iraq was involved in two other major programmes, and several minor ones. The best known project was the Condor missile, a ballistic missile with a range of up to 900 km. The Condor was a joint development effort by Argentina and Egypt, relying on technical support from West German and Italian engineers and technicians. Iraq is believed to have funded the project until the late 1980s, but appears to have dropped its support by 1988. It is likely that Iraq hoped to obtain the Condor if its own indigenous programs failed. Once it became clear that Iraq would be able to produce its own missiles without relying on foreign countries, Baghdad lost interest in the Condor.

More important than the Condor was Project 395, which provided Iraq with production and test facilities needed to produce solid fuel ballastic missiles. Project 395 involved many of the same West European organisations and individuals associated with the Condor missile. According to press reports, at least $400 million was spent to build these facilities. By early 1989, Iraq had received a plant to manufacture the chemicals needed for solid fuel rocket motors, a manufacturing factory to produce components and assemble the missiles, and a rocket test stand. It is believed that the Iraqis are attempting to design a family of missiles, known as the Fahd. One of these missiles will have a range of at least 250 km, and the other a range of at least 500 km. It is not known how much progress has been made on these missiles, but it is likely that the Fahd missiles will eventually replace the Al-Husayn.

In addition to the ballistic missiles, Iraq also has developed several families of long-range artillery rockets. These include the Ababil, which exists in 50km and 100 km versions. The Ababil is based on the Yugoslav M-87 artillery rocket. Iraq also has the Sajil family, which is based on the Brazilian Astros II rockets. Finally, Iraq is known to have produced an improved version of the FROG-7, known as the Laith. This rocket has arange of 90 km. All these rockets can be fitted with cluster munition warheads.

The Al-Husayn is only a part of a larger Iraqi effort to develop a comprehensive ballistic capability. Eventually, it will be replaced by solid fuel missiles with equal range and a larger payload. Until then, however, the Al-Husayn and its variants will remain an important component of Iraq's strategic missile forces.

The Design of the Al-Husayn

The only detailed descriptions of the Al-Husayn and its performance have come from Iran. Although it is natural to be sceptical of reports coming from such sources, there is reason to take the accounts seriously. The accounts are based on the studies made by missile experts drawn from the Iranian Air Force and Islamic Revolution Guard Corps Air Force missile units. These are the same people who operate Iran's 'Scud B' missiles, and who are responsible for Iran's own missile development projects. These experts were able to examine a considerable amount of debris left by the missiles. A telephone hot line was established by the War Information Headquarters in Tehran to permit people to alert the experts of the presence of wreckage. The Iranians have claimed that in some instances the missile warheads failed to detonate, which made it possible for their experts to examine the design of the warhead. In addition, the Iranians were able to recover relatively intact Al-Husayn fuselages. Thus, the Iranians had ample opportunity to study in detail the design and construction of the missile.

According to the Iranians, the Al-Husayn missiles fired at Iran in March and April 1988 were extensively modified versions of the Soviet 'Scud B'. Indeed,their experts believe that Iraq cannibalised three Soviet-supplied 'Scud B' missiles to produce two Al-Husayns.

Several modifications were needed to make an Al-Husayn. The most important involved increasing the amount of propellant carried by the missile. The oxidiser and fuel tanks were increased in size by cutting them in half and adding additional sections to the existing tanks. The oxidiser were lengthened by 85 cm and the fuel tanks by 45 cm. By increasing the size of the fuel and oxidiser tanks, 1040 kilograms of propellant was added, increasing the total from about 4 to just over 5 tons. According to the Iranians, these additional sections were obtained by taking a 'Scud B' and cutting the fuel and oxidiser tanks into two parts. These sections were then inserted into two other missiles.

To compensate for the larger propellant tanks, the number of air tanks on the Al-Husayn was increased to six from the four used by the 'Scud B'. The pressurised air is used to maintain pressure in the fuel and oxidiser tanks as they empty. In order to compensate for changes in the missile's centre of gravity, five of the six air tanks were placed in the missile's nose. In the 'Scud B' the tanks are all located in the tail.

The Iranians also report that the payload of the missile was cut by reducing the quantity of explosives. The amount of explosive material was reduced from 800 kilograms to only 190 kilograms. The reduced weight of the warhead compensated in part for the increase in the missile's weight created by the additional fuel and of the larger size of the missile fuselage.

Extending the length of the fuel tanks by 130 cm made the entire missile longer, since there was no internal space to absorb the larger tanks. This required extension of the larger tanks. This required extension of the internal framing of the missile to provide structural support and the addition of steel skin to cover the fuselage.

These modifications made it possible to increase the burn time of the rocket motor. The combination of a longer burn time and a lighter payload made it possible to extend flight time from 6 or 6.5 minutes to 8 or 9 minutes and to increase the range from 280 km to 600 km.

There are indications that Iraq may have adopted an improved guidance package on at least some of the Al-Husayn missiles. Iraqi officials claim that it has a CEP of 500 meters, or about 0.08 percent of range. Such a high level of accuracy for missiles using the original 'Scud' guidance package is unlikely. The Iraqis do claim to have begun production of their own guidance system for the missile, so that it may have been possible for them to enhance the accuracy of the missile.

The Soviet Union is believed to have developed a version of the 'Scud' with considerably improved accuracy, known to Western intelligence as the 'Scud D'. According to one source, the missile was under development during the 1970s, and is believed to have entered service in the 1980s. Moreover, it is thought that the accuracy has been improved sufficiently to make it possible for the missile to be fitted with cluster munition and minelet warheads.

In other respects, the Al-Husayn performs like a 'Scud B'. The warhead detaches from the missile fuselage immediately prior to impact. As a result, the missile actually lands in two parts. According to one eyewitness account, the separation takes place when the missile is still 500 m in the air. Apparently an explosive charge is used during separation, since a "puff of white smoke" was seen around the missile at that point. In some cases the missiles produced two separate explosions, and this apparently led some people in Tehran to believe that twice as many missiles were hitting the city as was actually the case.

The advantages to the path followed by the Iraqis in producing the Al-Husayn are obvious. By making use of existing missiles, the Iraqis had to produce only a small number of new components. It is likely that the only totally new material needed to produce the missile was the internal framing members and sheet metal to cover the 130 cm gap created by the larger propellent tanks. It is this reliance on existing materials that probably accounts for the speed with which the Al-Husayn was developed and manufactured.

Iraq also developed transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) vehicles for the Al-Husayn. The Al-Waleed TEL consists of a Saab-Scania tractor-trailer, assembled under license in Iraq, with an erector-launcher assembly similar to the one used on the 'Scud B' launcher. An earlier launcher, shown in October 1988, consisted of a simple launch rail, elevated hydraulically.

The Technical Performance of the Al-Husayn

From a technical perspective, the Al-Husayn proved to have numerous flaws and was only partially successful. The Iraqis admit that the missile never reached its intended range of 650 km. Rather, its maximum range was closer to 600 km.

The accuracy of the Al-Husayn was dubious at best. The 'Scud B' is credited with a CEP of about 1000 m at 1ts maximum range of 280 km, or an accuracy of about 0.3 per cent of range. If the Al-Husayn used the same guidance system, it would have a similar accuracy if fired at 300 km. However, as the range increases the accuracy diminishes. Thus, the CEP of the Al-Husayn at maximum range would be about 2000 m. The Iraqis, however, claim to have produced their own guidance package with a CEP of only 500 m at maximum range, or about 0.08 percent of range.

Iranian accounts do not support these Iraqi claims. Iranian officials contended that the Al-Husayns fired at Tehran were three times less accurate than the 'Scud B' missiles fired by Iran at Baghdad. Since the Iranian missiles probably were fired at ranges of 150 to 200 km, giving them a CEP of 500 to 650 m, this suggests a CEP for the Al-Husayn of between 1500 and 2000 m.

According to the Iranians, the inaccuracy of the Al-Husayn was due in part to aerodynamic problems. Some of the Al-Husayns tumbled in flight (apparently a common problem with the 'Scud'). Other difficulties resulted from poor workmanship.The welds on the airframe were of poor quality, and probably reduced the aerodynamic stability of the missile. Thus, it is possible that the Iraqis introduced improvements in the guidance package, but that problems in design and manufacturing significantly degraded the accuracy of the system.

Reducing the weight of the explosive charge carried in the warhead significantly reduced the effective payload of the missile. Explosives accounted for only about 3 per cent of the weight of the Al-Husayn, compared with 14 per cent for a standard 'Scud B'. In addition, many of the warheads were defective and did not explode.

These technical flaws, however, did not detract from the strategic effectiveness of the missile. Accuracy is not an important military characteristic when the primary goal is to hit a city the size of Tehran. With its ten million inhabitants, Tehran covers an area of at least 500 square km,so that a missile fired at the centre of the city is likely to hit some inhabited area, even if it misses the aim point by two or three km.

Equally unimportant was the weakness of the explosive charge carried by the missile. There is ample evidence that the Al-Husayns caused considerable damage. The destructiveness probably resulted from the fact that the warhead of the Al-Husayn separates from the missile only in the last seconds before impact. Thus, the target is hit by both the warhead and the missile fuselage. Since the fuselage weighs more than 1.0 tons and is traveling in excess of Mach 4, even without a warhead the destructive potential of the missile in an urban setting is quite high. In addition, any unexpended propellant remaining upon impact would add to the damage caused by the missile fuselage. Thus, even with an extremely small warhead the Al-Husayn was capable of causing a considerable amount of devastation.

Development of the Al-Husayn

Little is known of the origins of Iraq's 'Scud' upgrade program. The project was conducted with considerable secrecy, and even Western intelligence agencies were unaware of the project. Moreover, most foreign observers refusedto believe that Iraq had the technical talent to conduct projects of such technical complexity. Intelligence agencies in the West dismissed as propaganda Iraq's claims in early 1987 to have successfully tested a 650 km range missile. Only when scores of the missiles began landing on Iranian cities in March and April 1988 was it generally accepted that Iraq had managed to acquired an extended range version of the 'Scud'.

According to Iraqi officials, Iraq began to develop missiles starting in 1982. At that time, however, it appears that Iraq was concentrating on simpler technologies, such as artillery rockets. It is not known when a decision was made to initiate a 'Scud' upgrade effort. It appears likely that the impetus to produce the Al Husayn may have come from Iran's acquisition of 'Scud B' missiles from Libya, and the subsequent use of those missiles against Baghdad in March 1986. Because Baghdad is close to the border, Iran could easily hit that city with a 'Scud B' missile. In contrast, Tehran was too far away for the 'Scud B' to reach. To hit Tehran, Iraq needed a missile with double the range of the 'Scud B'.

It appears that Al-Husayn development was conducted as a crash program. Every effort was made to ensure that the missile would be available at the earliest possible date. This almost certainly accounts for the simplicity of the initial modifications. Rather than adopting improved technologies that might increase range or payload, but take time to implement, the Iraqis opted to make only absolutely necessary modifications in the original missile.

The Iraqis announced the existence of their new missile following a successful test on 3 August 1987 at 0800 local time (0400 GMT). According to the Iraqi report, the missile flew a distance of 615 km, just short of its planned maximum range of 650 km, and it landed in the designated target area. Development was undertaken by the Surface-to-Surface Missile Research and Development Team, headed by Kr Amir Hammud al-Sadi. This organisation, manned by both civilian and military personnel, was under the control of the Secretary of the Presidency, Hamid Yusuf Hammadi. This placed the project under the direct auspices of President Saddam Husayn, and left out the Ministry of Defense.

The Iraqis organised Project 124 to handle production of the missile. A factory ws built near Al Falluja, a city justwest of Baghdad where a considerable number of military manufacturing facilities are located. A significant number of West German engineers and technicians are believed to have been involved in the construction and operation of the factory. According to one report "hundreds" of foreigners remained involved as late as May 1989.

Project 124 appears to have operated under the authority of the War Production Establishment (WPE), which was then under the control of Colonel Husayn Kamil Hasan. Kamil is nephew to the President of Iraq, Saddam Husayn, and is married to one of the president's daughters. In March 1988, apparently as recognition for the successes of the WPE in producing the Al-Husayn and other military systems, the defence industries were completely reorganised. The Military Industries Organisation (MIO) supplanted the WPE, and the MIO was made a part of the newly created Ministry for Industry and Military Industrialisation (MIMI)E. This new ministry was given to Kamil, who was also promoted to general. Kamil is now one of the most powerful men in Iraq, responsible for a wide variety of military and civilian industrial projects, including the chemical and nuclear weapons programs.

The Surface-to-Surface Missile research and Development team was incorporated into the new organisation. Dr Amir al-Sadi is now First Deputy Minister in MIMI, and manages Iraq's Military Industries Organisation.

It is generally believed that Iraq received considerable foreign assistance in the design and production of the Al-Husayn. Not much is known for certain. Informed observers suggest that Egypt may have supported the effort, drawing on its earlier efforts to produce a version of the 'Scud B'. West German individuals appear to have assited in the production of the missile. In addition, at least one East German military research institute is alleged to have helped with design work associated with the warhead. There is no evidence to support claims that Brazil helped with the Al-Husayn, although Iraq has cooperated with Brazil on other rocket-related projects.

It has also been erroneously suggested that Iraq received assistance from North Korea. Although North Korea builds its own 'Scud' missiles, and appears to have cooperated with Egypt in a joint 'Scud' development project, there is no reason to believe that North Korea had any association with the Iraqi efforts. The two countries broke diplomatic relations in 1980 over North Korea's support for Iran's Islamic Republic. Rather than helping Iraq, North Korea was working closely with Iran. Iran is believed to have financed North Korea's development of a 'Scud B' production capability, and in return received 90 to 100 'Scud B' missiles. These missiles were fired on Iraqi cities at precisely the time that Iraq was making use of its Al-Husayn missiles. North Korea's involvement is reflected in its arms shipments to Iran and Iraq between 1980 and 1987. According to the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, North Korea profided arms worth $2.4 billion to Iran, but only $50 million to Iraq.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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