Saddam's Supergun

#1
Project Babylon Supergun / PC-2 - Iraq Special Weapons

I can remember the news coverage of the seizure of sections of Gun barrel. I can remember that my brother went on a school trip to the Peak District early that year, and some of them went to Sheffield Forgemasters where they saw what looked like sections of a barrel being manufactured. Of course everyone seemed to believe the cover story, that it was for a petrochemical project.

Under Project Babylon, Bull extended his HARP gun design to build the barrel in segments, with a total length of 512 feet. The gun would be able to fire 600 kg projectile to a range of 1,000 kilometers, or a 2,000 kg rocket-assisted projectile into orbit.
Two questions have never been answered. Firstly, how viable would have been as a weapon? Yes, it may have ben feasible to fire rocket assisted projectiles from it, but as a weapon it would surely have suffered from a lack of mobility, meaning it could only fire at targets in a very limited arc, and once fired, the location of the gun would have been easily determined by radar, and it would have been vulnerable to air strikes, cruise missiles, special forces operations, and so on.

Secondly, what use would firing a 2000 kg projectile in a Low Earth Orbit have been to Saddam, other than as a propaganda tool? Using it as a weapon against US spy satellites would have not been easy, as it would have needed precise tracking facilities which Saddam did not have. Apart from this use, how useful would putting a 2000 kg load into LEO have been? Much of that 2000 kg would have been taken up by a rocket motor and fuel, as achieving orbit (as opposed to a parabolic lob) would require additional acceleration to prevent it descending fast enough to strike the Earth's surface. Additionally the latitude of the launch site would have limited the orbit that could be achieved. Apart from propaganda, how much practical value would there have been, either for spying, or for applications such as communications (not much, since it would be a LEO), monitoring natural resources, and so on?
 
#4
Still in storage. Customs have it in a shed somewhere
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
#5
A lot of the barrel sections are on view to the public at Porchester Castle (A Palmerston Fort) owned by the Royal Armouries!
 
#6
There's a bit of it in Duxford... Or was it Cosford? did both inside a couple of days.

Spent a good half-hour taking arty photos of it, really weird patina on the inside.
 

Grumblegrunt

LE
Book Reviewer
#9
israel was the idea, a projectile too fast for interception and big enough to cause damage whether nuke or he.

the designer guy was a bit of a nerd who just wanted to be proven right. his field gun design is still benchmark.
 
#10
A lot of the barrel sections are on view to the public at Porchester Castle (A Palmerston Fort) owned by the Royal Armouries!
I think you mean Fort Nelson!
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
#11

FORMER_FYRDMAN

LE
Book Reviewer
#12
A lot of the barrel sections are on view to the public at Porchester Castle (A Palmerston Fort) owned by the Royal Armouries!
Palmerston? I thought Porchester was Roman with a medieval castle in the corner.
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
#13
There are so many castles and forts I lose track! That and senility!
 
#14
Harp just wanted someone who would take his ideas on board, no different to any other military scientist really. The tubes/barrels were at the Fort atop Portsdown Hill last time we took the kids, an interesting afternoon out. Harp may have anticipated the existence of the guided shell, which can curve around advancing friendly forces to fall on enemy whilst avoiding the drop-short problem.
 
#16
Harp just wanted someone who would take his ideas on board, no different to any other military scientist really. The tubes/barrels were at the Fort atop Portsdown Hill last time we took the kids, an interesting afternoon out. Harp may have anticipated the existence of the guided shell, which can curve around advancing friendly forces to fall on enemy whilst avoiding the drop-short problem.
The scientist was called Gerald Bull - he was the leading light in an American project called HARP (High Altitude Research Project I think) for gun launching satellites - Project HARP - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The project got cancelled and Bull went to SA to develop conventional artillery - his 155 is still considered the definitive design.. After SA went native, Bull was hired by Saddam to do gun research. He basically revived the German "Hochdruckpumpe" cannon design which had been going since the 1880s in various forms - V-3 cannon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Saddam's musings that this might just be the thing to point at Israel probably did it for dear Gerald - Mossad paid him an early morning visit and ventilated his brain for his troubles...
 
#17
Project Babylon Supergun / PC-2 - Iraq Special Weapons

I can remember the news coverage of the seizure of sections of Gun barrel. I can remember that my brother went on a school trip to the Peak District early that year, and some of them went to Sheffield Forgemasters where they saw what looked like sections of a barrel being manufactured. Of course everyone seemed to believe the cover story, that it was for a petrochemical project.



Two questions have never been answered. Firstly, how viable would have been as a weapon? Yes, it may have ben feasible to fire rocket assisted projectiles from it, but as a weapon it would surely have suffered from a lack of mobility, meaning it could only fire at targets in a very limited arc, and once fired, the location of the gun would have been easily determined by radar, and it would have been vulnerable to air strikes, cruise missiles, special forces operations, and so on.

Secondly, what use would firing a 2000 kg projectile in a Low Earth Orbit have been to Saddam, other than as a propaganda tool? Using it as a weapon against US spy satellites would have not been easy, as it would have needed precise tracking facilities which Saddam did not have. Apart from this use, how useful would putting a 2000 kg load into LEO have been? Much of that 2000 kg would have been taken up by a rocket motor and fuel, as achieving orbit (as opposed to a parabolic lob) would require additional acceleration to prevent it descending fast enough to strike the Earth's surface. Additionally the latitude of the launch site would have limited the orbit that could be achieved. Apart from propaganda, how much practical value would there have been, either for spying, or for applications such as communications (not much, since it would be a LEO), monitoring natural resources, and so on?
All of the drawbacks that you list would have been major limitations, but a 2000kg projectile coming out of orbit would do a hell of a lot of damage even without any explosive. Of course, that's only of any use if you can actually hit anything.


If it came in at, say, 5km/s then that's 25 gJ of energy or 0.005KT (5 tons TNT equivalent). That's quite a significant amount of energy, particularly if it's nearly impossible to intercept.


If you can get it up to 10km/s, then that's 100 gj (0.02KT) - bigger than the Davy Crocket nuclear weapon.
 
#18
Sections of the 1,000mm gun tubes found in Iraq during the 1990s.



United Nations Photo: United Nations Team Carries out Inspections Aimed at Disposing of Iraq's Chemical, Biological and Nuclear Weapons Capacity



United Nations Photo: United Nations Team Carries out Inspections Aimed at Disposing of Iraq's Chemical, Biological and Nuclear Weapons Capacity

Recoil mechanism for the 1,000mm gun found in Iraq during the 1990s.



United Nations Photo: United Nations Team Carries out Inspections Aimed at Disposing of Iraq's Chemical, Biological and Nuclear Weapons Capacity

350mm gun discovered in Iraq during the 1990s



United Nations Photo: United Nations Special Commission Undertakes Inspections Aimed at Eliminating Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction

Some of the gun sections were photographed in an Iraqi yard during 2006.



Images of some of the undelivered UK gun sections at following link.

Project Babylon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A declassified CIA document (released in 2012) gives some interesting background to the project. The UK companies were contracted to supply 52 of the 1,000 mm gun barrels and had supplied 44. The last 8 sections some of which are on display in the UK were seized by UK Customs. A UN team of inspectors were sent to Iraq to examine and dismantle the gun components.

In July 1991, in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf war, Iraq acknowledged "a long-range gun program," despite its initial denials that there was such a program. The Iraqis also admitted to the existence of the 350-mm diameter test gun and to it location, and they provided information on the status of the components that were to make up the 1,000-mm supergun and two other 350-mm guns. Examination of the 350-mm test-gun site, the supergun components and the other gun components by a United Nations inspection team revealed that Project Babylon has, in fact, been terminated. In October 1991, procedures were implemented by the United Nations for the destruction of the Project Babylon components, including the 350-mm test gun
http://www.foia.cia.gov/sites/default/files/document_conversions/89801/DOC_0001469609.pdf
 
#19
Re,member how one of the security services - can't remember if it was Box or the other lot - used the directors of Matrix Churchill to get information and then hung them out to dry?
 

Grumblegrunt

LE
Book Reviewer
#20
according to wiki there's a movie about it from 1994.
 

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