International Handbook on Chemical Weapons Proliferation

By Gordon M. Burck; Charles C. Flowerree | Go to book overview

Chapter 9
Long-Range Delivery of CW Agents

Concern over chemical weapons proliferation is heightened by the concomitant spread of advanced delivery system technology, occurring primarily in the Middle East and Asia, the same areas where chemical proliferation is thought to be transpiring. The spread of ballistic missiles, in particular, has gained a great deal of governmental and media attention in the past few years, in large part due to the heavy use of Scud missiles in the Iran-Iraq War of the Cities, use of Scud missiles by the Afghan government against the mujaheddin, and the sale of long-range missiles by China to Saudi Arabia in early 1988.

Iraq's launching of enhanced Scud missiles at Israel and Saudi Arabia following the outbreak of hostilities in January 1991 intensified this anxiety markedly. Speculation surrounded each missile launching as to whether it carried a chemical payload, but all of the missiles launched at the two countries during the war carried conventional high-explosive warheads.


THE DIFFICULTIES OF MISSILE DELIVERY OF CW AGENT

While the pairing of Scud and similar missiles to chemical payloads has often been regarded as imminent, and the missiles are said to be "capable" of delivering a chemical payload, the two are really not well matched. The vast majority of currently deployed and near-future missile systems have such low degrees of reliability and precision that not only would they be of little military value with a high-explosive (HE) warhead but also with a chemical payload. Chemical weapons do provide greater area coverage than conventional HE, but coverage is not so great that it compensates for gross error in targeting or accuracy. Many of the Third World missiles have a circular error probable (CEP) of one-half mile or more, and improving precision is technically difficult and requires a great investment of time and missiles.

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