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During the Gulf war Iraq launched its own modified version of a Soviet intermediate-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile widely known as the "Scud" -- the NATO code name for the Soviet SS-1c "Scud B" missile.1 Iraqi military communiques stated that the missile attacks on Israel and the Gulf States used the "al-Husayn" surface-to-surface ballistic missile, an Iraqi modification of the Soviet Scud B (see below).

Saddam Hussein, in an interview with CNN on January 28, objected to Peter Arnett's use of the term Scud to describe the Iraqi missiles: "Why do you avoid calling things by their proper names?" he admonished. "Scud is your own system, which has a range of 270 km. As for this, it is an Iraqi missile called al-Husayn. Its twin brother, al-'Abbas, has a range of approximately 1,000 km and we are developing it to be ready for use in the numbers we might need." It appeared a sore point with Iraq that its modified missile was not recognized; on January 29 a statement was released that echoed Saddam's comments the day before:

The enemies insist on calling the al-Husayn missile a Scud. By now they should be well aware that the missile they are trying to intercept is not a Scud missile and does not function in the same way as a Scud. Ours is the al-Husayn missile, a missile born in the steadfast land of Iraq.2


The only surface-to-surface ballistic missiles confirmed as having been exported to Iraq are the short-range Soviet FROG-73 and the intermediate-range Scud SS-1, "both of 1960s vintage."4 Egypt and North Korea are believed to have acquired the capacity to manufacture Scud missile assemblies and, according to Jane's Soviet Intelligence Review, "it is most likely that Iraq developed a similar capability from about 1985/86."5 Jane's states that "[t]he principal Iraqi effort in ballistic missile development appears to have centred around improvements to the Soviet designed SS-1 `Scud.'"6

Iraq is believe to have developed at least two modified versions of the Soviet Scud-B surface-to-surface ballistic missile, which has a range of about 175 miles and a 2,200-pound warhead.7 The "al-Husayn" was first tested in August 1987; 150 of the missiles were later launched at Iran.8 The chief improvement of the al-Husayn was its longer range --372 miles, compared to 186 miles for the Soviet Scud B; but the consequence of the longer range was a halving of the missile's warhead,from 455 pounds to 227 pounds, lessening its destructive power.9 A second Iraqi modified Scud, the "al-Abbas," has a warhead of only 650 pounds, and is believed to have a range of about 500 miles.10

But both missiles are less accurate than the original Soviet version. In modifying the missiles Iraq traded greater range for less than half the accuracy of the original Soviet Scud B:

Whilst the accuracy of the Soviet SS-1c `Scud B' version is believed to be no better than 450 m CEP [circular error probable], the accuracy of the Al Hussein missile at 650 km is unlikely to be any better than 1000 m.11

Even with the smaller warheads, Iraq's missiles were capable of causing damage on the ground. Theodore A. Postol, professor of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in testimony before the U.S. House Armed Services Committee that Iraq's Scud derivatives, traveling at high speeds, were capable of causing heavy damage on the ground from the warhead itself or from pieces of the body of the missile:

An extended range SCUD that has burned all of its fuel during boost weighs between 5,000 and 6,000 pounds. Since the SCUD is moving at very high speed, at impact it has roughtly half the destructive energy of its equivalent weight in TNT. Hence, although the approximately 500 pound SCUD warhead could be expected to do heavy local ground damage, similar to greater levels of ground damage could also be expected from high speed impacts of large pieces of SCUDs. However, heavy damage, serious injuries, or deaths fromsuch impacts will only occur within perhaps several tens of meters from an impact.12


The allies used 29 Patriot defensive missile batteries during the war: 21 in Saudi Arabia; two in Turkey, and six in Israel; of the batteries in Israel, four were U.S. batteries and two were Israel Defense Force batteries, according to the Pentagon.13 The Patriot system was used to destroy incoming Iraqi missiles by exploding in extremely close proximity of the missile and releasing over 300 small metal fragments; but even in the case of a successful explosion, pieces of falling missiles could send a rain of debris to the ground.14

The Pentagon has publicly noted that there was major political significance in employing the Patriot system to shoot down Iraqi missiles:

The political significance of the Patriot in assisting with the defense of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other civil targets and in frustrating Saddam's most politically visible weapon was enormous.15

The Pentagon observed that the use of the Patriots had a positive effect on the morale of the civilian population:

[T]he Patriot system proved to be an effective counter to Iraqi Scud attacks on innocent civilians, boosting civilianmorale and enhancing Coalition cohesion. Patriots countered a sense of helplessness that civilian populations would otherwise have encountered. Without them, and without close communications established between the US and Israel during the war, Israel might have retaliated against Iraq, stressing the Coalition's political unity.16

But damage on the ground from the use of the Patriots, particularly in Israel,17 was a sensitive issue during the war, and numerous questions about the Patriots' use and performance, particularly in relation to civilian casualties and damage on the ground, remain to be answered. In particular, the extraordinary amount of physical damage reported on the ground in and around the Tel Aviv metropolitan area is yet to be fully explained. The Pentagon's July 1991 preliminary report to Congress fails to provide detailed information about casualties or damage caused by Patriots:

Many of the Scuds that were successfully launched went astray or were engaged by US missile defenses. Sensors detected Scud launches and sent attack warning and assessment information to Patriot batteries. The Patriot air defense missile system intercepted a high percentage of the engageable Scud missiles, although the warheads were sometimes not destroyed and debris fell on civilians.18

Elsewhere in the report, the Pentagon again provides information that lacks detail, claiming "[p]reliminary indications are that Patriot successfully intercepted the majority of Scud missiles that were within itsengagement envelope."19 But the report defines success in a manner that leaves obscured the important issue of civilian casualties and damage on the ground: "Intercept success is defined as preventing damage to the asset/protected area by killing the warhead and/or diverting the warhead off its intended trajectory."20 No additional information is provided.

It should be noted at the outset that the Patriot system was never designed for area-wide defense of a large city but to protect surface-to-air missile sites in isolated areas.21 Gen. Schwarzkopf, in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on June 12, acknowledged that the Patriot system "is designed for purely military means for a point defense or to defend a very small area like an airfield or something like that. The Patriot was never a missile system that was designed to defend an entire city or an entire area or something of this sort."

Subsequent modifications of the Patriot system "were not radical enough to enable the Patriot to pulverize a tactical ballistic missile, an Army official said."22 Patriot missiles, 17 feet long with a weight of one ton, have a range of less than 50 miles; in comparison, the Scud weighs eight tons and is 41 feet long.23 One U.S. Army officer told The Washington Post that the eight-ton Iraqi missile was difficult to totally destroy with the smaller Patriot: "We're very accurate with our shots, but you just can't destroy the entire Scud because there's too much of it."24 The Post reported that the Patriot system has "just seconds to compute atrajectory and launch," and as a result, "sometimes is able only to knock an incoming missile off course."25

During the war, Brig. Gen. Uri Ram, who commands Israel's anti-aircraft artillery, acknowledged that in some cases Patriots had detonated "in a range that knocks the Scud around a bit but doesn't destroy it or doesn't destroy it completely."26 Israeli officials told The New York Times that this may have occurred on January 22, when an Iraqi missile crashed into a three-story apartment block in Ramat Gan in Greater Tel Aviv, killing three people and injuring almost 100: "Israeli military officials speculated...that the Patriot fired [on January 22] exploded at the tail of the Scud missile, sending it off the intended trajectory but leaving the warhead intact."27

The Patriots were designed to be fired upward at a missile that is bearing down on a target at high speed:

Defender missiles stationed at the target area are shot upward so they can meet an incoming missile head-on as it makes its final approach to the target. The Patriot carries a warhead weighing about 200 pounds that is designed to explode in proximity to the incoming missile, throwing off a spray of shrapnel that slices into the enemy missile and destroys it.28

A New York Times correspondent based in Tel Aviv during the war noted that interceptions often took place right over the target: "An incoming Scud usually follows a trajectory that causes it to fall almost straight downat the end of its path. And so the Patriots usually intercept them almost directly over the intended target, spewing debris below...."29

As indicated in Chapter Eight, some of these interceptions reportedly caused greater damage on the ground as missiles fell down in pieces over a wide area, rather than landing intact:

A debate over the residual effects of Patriot missiles exploding against Scud missiles directly over Tel Aviv --sometimes at an altitude as low as 140 feet -- has been fueled by witnesses to the missile clashes over the city and the pattern of damage on the ground that appeared to be spread out over an area larger than it would have been if the Scuds had not been intercepted.30

It has not been publicly disclosed how much damage was caused on the ground by the use of Patriot missiles to intercept incoming Iraqi missiles. Israeli Army spokesman Gen. Nachman Shai did acknowledge that in Tel Aviv "at least two Patriot missiles had been fired at every incoming Scud."31 At a news conference on January 25, President Bush was asked to comment about reports from Israel of civilian injuries, and perhaps deaths, caused by Patriot missiles. He declined to supply information: "I will again express enormous confidence in the Patriots. They're doing very, very well. But whether this was debris falling down from an intercept or not, I simply don't want to comment because we don't yet know it for sure."32

MIT's Professor Postol also noted that each time a Patriot surface-to-air missile was launched to intercept an incoming Iraqi missile during the Gulf war "there were at least 3 types of events that caused some level of damage on the ground."33 First, in cases where Iraqi missiles were completely destroyed during an intercept, "they nevertheless resulted in some ground damage from numerous pieces of falling debris." This was acknowledged during the war by an Israeli missile expert:

"It is a shortcoming, because the debris does what debris does and it causes damage," said Brig. Gen. Aharon Levran, a missile expert in the reserves....

He said the Patriot's "deficiency seems to be that it intercepts a little bit too near. This is an inherent shortcoming, once they impact in densely populated areas."34

In a second group of cases, damage on the ground could be increased when an incoming missile was intercepted and broken apart in large pieces, which would then fall to the ground in multiple impact sites:

The second type of event were intercepts that cut SCUDs into relatively large pieces that then fell in multiple locations. It appears that in some cases the SCUD warheads also fell intact and detonated, but the impact of large pieces could also do damage equal to or greater than that from the warhead. As a result, the pattern of damage was altered by these intercepts, but it is not clear that the total amount of ground damage was decreased. In fact, it is possible that in these cases the total amount of ground damage was increased.35

In a third group of cases, falling Patriots caused damage on the ground, particularly from the warhead, which "contains metal fragments that are designed to inflict heavy damage at maximal range." Professor Postol described these cases this way:

The third type of event was intercepts that resulted in either PATRIOTS falling to the ground or PATRIOTS chasing SCUD missiles or pieces of debris to the ground. The PATRIOT warhead probably weighs about half of that of the SCUD's, but it is almost certainly made from a more highly energetic explosive. In addition, the PATRIOT warhead contains metal fragments that are designed to inflict heavy damage at maximal range. When a PATRIOT hits the ground on a diving trajectory it could well be travelling at a higher speed than a SCUD, and although its mass is smaller than that of an expended SCUD, it is still about a thousand pounds of mass hitting the ground at quite high speeds. One would therefore guess that such events would almost surely result in ground damage per PATRIOT impact comparable to that from an unintercepted SCUD.36

More damage reportedly was sustained on the ground in Israel after the Patriot system began to be used. The Washington Post reported that the number of Patriot intercepts during the Gulf war is classified, but "U.S. officials acknowledged that fewer than half of the Patriots evidently struck Scud warheads over Israel."37 On April 25, the Raytheon Company -- the manufacturer of the Patriot system -- said that about half of the warheads on Iraqi missiles fired at Israel were destroyed by Patriots.38 A Raytheon official said that the information disclosed was prepared by the Israel Defense Forces. Raytheon also reported, incontrast, that 90 percent of the warheads of the missiles launched at Saudi Arabia were destroyed.

1 Pyle at 131. The Scud B was "the most widely used and exported" of the four versions of the Soviet Scud, known as A, B, C and D. See Duncan Lennox, "Iraq--Ballistic Missiles," Jane's Soviet Intelligence Review, October 1990 at 438 [hereinafter Lennox].

2 Baghdad Domestic Service, January 29, 1991, as reported in FBIS, January 30, 1991 at 22.

3 Iraq also used Soviet-made FROG missiles during the Gulf war. The FROG -- an acronym for Free Rocket Over Ground -- is a short-range tactical missile with a solid fuel rocket. The FROG-7, which is not a true guided missile, has a maximum range of only 60 or 70 kilometers (Cordesman at 496-7). Middle East Watch is not aware of FROG missiles fired by Iraq at civilian targets during the war; Iraqi military communiques often noted when these missiles were used against military targets. On February 21, the Saudi Press Agency announced that Iraq fired two FROGs, one of which landed near a formation of Senegalese soldiers, injuring eight, two seriously.

4 Lennox at 438.

5 Id.

6 Id.

7 "Scuds: The Iraqi Missile Threat," The Washington Post, January 18, 1991.

8 Lennox at 440.

9 Id.

10 Id.

11 Lennox at 440.

12 Theodore A. Postol, "Lessons for SDI from the Gulf War PATRIOT Experience: A Technical Perspective," Testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, April 16, 1991 at 5 [hereinafter Postol].

13 Pentagon Interim Report at 6-6.

14 See, for example, James Schwartz, "How Patriots Destroy Scuds," The Washington Post, January 26, 1991.

15 Pentagon Interim Report at 6-6.

16 Pentagon Interim Report at 4-4.

17 Six Patriot batteries reportedly were in used in various locations in Israel, operated by U.S. and Israeli crews. (See William Claiborne and Jackson Diehl, "Patriots Launched to Meet New Scud Attack Over Israel," The Washington Post, January 27, 1991.)

18 Pentagon Interim Report at 4-4.

19 Pentagon Interim Report at 6-6.

20 Pentagon Interim Report at 6-6.

21 John Kifner, "Deadly Debris Shows Limits Of Patriot Missile Defenses," The New York Times, January 27, 1991.

22 Id.

23 Evelyn Richards and Barton Gellman, "Patriot Not Being Used As Designed," The Washington Post, January 26, 1991.

24 Id.

25 Id.

26 Sabra Chartrand, "`Just Bad Luck' in Tel Aviv: Patriot Bumped Scud Off Path," The New York Times, January 24, 1991.

27 Id.

28 John Kifner, "Deadly Debris Shows Limits of Patriot Missile Defenses," The New York Times, January 27, 1991.

29 Joel Brinkley, "Patriots Stop Scud But Israeli Man Is Killed by Debris," The New York Times, January 26, 1991.

30 William Claiborne and Jackson Diehl, "Patriots Launched to Meet New Scud Attack Over Israel," The Washington Post, January 27, 1991.

31 Jackson Diehl and William Claiborne, "Scud Missile Attack on Israel Kills 1, Injures Dozens," The Washington Post, January 26, 1991.

32 "Excerpts From Bush's Remarks on Moves in Gulf," The New York Times, January 26, 1991.

33 Postol at 6.

34 John Kifner, "Deadly Debris Shows Limits of Patriot Missile Defenses," The New York Times, January 27, 1991.

35 Postol at 6.

36 Id.

37 R. Jeffrey Smith, "Effectiveness of Patriot Missile Questioned," The Washington Post, April 17, 1991.

38 R. Jeffrey Smith, "Patriot Hit Half Of Scuds in Israel on Nose," The Washington Post, April 26, 1991.

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