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R-400 CW / BW bomb 


R-400 CW/BW bomb


Notes: The R-400 was used by Iraq in both it’s chemical and biological warfare programs of the 1980s and 1990s. The bomb was parachute-retarded, of aluminum construction and coated with an epoxy resin internally. From 1988 through May 1990, about 300 (possibly pre-production) R-400s were constructed. From June 1990 through January 1991, a total of 1359 additional R-400 bombs were accepted by the Iraqi AF’s quality control department. However, records the Hussein-era government provided to the UN show that only 1242 R-400 bombs were built, with deliveries to the al-Muthanna State Establishment (the bogus front company for Iraqi NBC warfare efforts), al-Hakam (an armaments company), or directly to frontline operational AF squadrons. It was typically fitted to the Su-22 “Fitter” although it is thought that it was also intended for MiG-23 “Flogger” and Su-25 “Frogfoot” types as well.

After Desert Storm, UN arms inspectors destroyed 117 R-400 bombs found at the Azzizziyia AF Bombing Range facility, and a total of 244 at other locations. None had been filled with CW. The Hussein-era government claimed that 1000 more R-400s were destroyed by Iraq itself as part of the 1991 cease-fire agreement. This leaves a gap of about 242 R-400 bombs unaccounted for. It’s assumed that these were either destroyed during Desert Storm, or, double-counted in the somewhat shoddy Iraqi record-keeping.

During Desert Storm, a January 1991 USAF airstrike hit a bunker at al-Walid airbase (about 35 miles east of the Iraqi-Jordanian border) containing R-400s. A Defense Department report declassified in August 2000 stated that the R-400s were live chemical payloads, however it is possible (per a UNSCOM 1991 report) that two of the destroyed bombs were filled with botulism bio-warfare agent.

In February 2003, a single leftover R-400 was found by advancing US troops during the invasion of Iraq. The bomb was loaded with chemical agent, most of which had leaked out. The bomb was stored in a decrepit bunker with a mix of other weapons; it appears that it was just forgotten about.

Chemical warfare

The vast bulk were intended for CW use; in this capacity they had a 24 gallon warhead with a rod-type fuse reverse-engineered from a Soviet design. The agent was usually Type GB or GF nerve gas, although some were filled with mustard gas as well. A small number of the first batch of 300 were used in the final months of the Iran-Iraq War during the al-Faw counteroffensive.

Biological warfare

Records captured after the 2003 invasion of Iraq indicate that 157 R-400 bombs had been filled with either botulism or anthrax agents. In the bio-war arrangement, the R-400 had a 22 gallon payload.

The bio-warfare agents were normally secured separately from the bombs at Salman Pak, in unique bunkers called “Twelve-Frames” by USAF intelligence. Seventeen of these were destroyed during Desert Storm, with the remaining two escaping damage but not having any bio-warfare agents inside anyways. Iraq also stored bio-warfare payloads in bulk at al-Hakam near Baghdad; this facility was not bombed during Desert Storm as it was felt the risk of inadvertent release into the city was too great.




Entry created by: Jason W. Henson

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