[Click image to enlarge]
Iraqi Mobile Biological
Warfare Agent Production Plants
Coalition forces have uncovered the strongest evidence to date that Iraq
was hiding a biological warfare program.
- Kurdish forces in late April 2003 took into custody a specialized
tractor-trailer near Mosul and subsequently turned it over to US military
- The US military discovered a second mobile facility equipped to produce
BW agent in early May at the al-Kindi Research, Testing, Development,
and Engineering facility in Mosul. Although this second trailer
appears to have been looted, the remaining equipment, including the
fermentor, is in a configuration similar to the first plant.
- US forces in late April also discovered a mobile laboratory truck
in Baghdad. The truck is a toxicology laboratory from the 1980s
that could be used to support BW or legitimate research.
The design, equipment, and layout of the trailer found in late April
is strikingly similar to descriptions provided by a source who was a chemical
engineer that managed one of the mobile plants. Secretary of State
Powell's description of the mobile plants in his speech in February 2003
to the United Nations (see inset below) was based primarily on reporting
from this source.
Powell's Speech to the UN
Secretary Powell's speech to the UN in February 2003 detailed Iraq's
mobile BW program, and was primarily based on information from a
source who was a chemical engineer that managed one of the mobile
- Iraq's mobile BW program began in the mid-1990sthis is
reportedly when the units were being designed.
- Iraq manufactured mobile trailers and railcars to produce biological
agents, which were designed to evade UN weapons inspectors.
Agent production reportedly occurred Thursday night through Friday
when the UN did not conduct inspections in observance of the Muslim
- An accident occurred in 1998 during a production run, which
killed 12 techniciansan indication that Iraq was producing
a BW agent at that time.
Analysis of the trailers reveals that they probably are second- or possibly
third-generation designs of the plants described by the source.
The newer version includes system improvements, such as cooling units,
apparently engineered to solve production problems described by the source
that were encountered with the older design.
- The manufacturer's plates on the fermentors list production dates
of 2002 and 2003suggesting Iraq continued to produce these units
as late as this year.
The source reported to us that Iraq in 1995 planned to construct seven
sets of mobile production plantssix on semitrailers and one on railroad
carsto conceal BW agent production while appearing to cooperate
with UN inspectors. Some of this information was corroborated by
- One of the semitrailer plants reportedly produced BW agents as early
as July 1997.
- The design for a more concealable and efficient two-trailer system
was reportedly completed in May 1998 to compensate for difficulties
in operating the original, three-trailer plant.
- Iraq employed extensive denial and deception in this program, including
disguising from its own workers the production process, equipment, and
BW agents produced in the trailers.
Consistent With Intelligence Reporting
Examination of the trailers reveals that all of the equipment is permanently
installed and interconnected, creating an ingeniously simple, self-contained
bioprocessing system. Although the equipment on the trailer found
in April 2003 was partially damaged by looters, it includes a fermentor
capable of producing biological agents and support equipment such as water
supply tanks, an air compressor, a water chiller, and a system for collecting
The trailers probably are part of a two- or possibly three-trailer unit.
Both trailers we have found probably are designed to produce BW agent
in unconcentrated liquid slurry. The missing trailer or trailers
from one complete unit would be equipped for growth media preparation
and postharvest processing and, we would expect, have equipment such as
mixing tanks, centrifuges, and spray dryers.
- These other units that we have not yet found would be needed to prepare
and sterilize the media and to concentrate and possibly dry the agent,
before the agent is ready for introduction into a delivery system, such
as bulk-filled munitions. Before the Gulf war, Iraq bulk filled missile
and rocket warheads, aerial bombs, artillery shells, and spray tanks.
Iraqi Mobile Program Sources
The majority of our information on Iraq's mobile program was obtained
from a chemical engineer that managed one of the plants. Three
other sources, however, corroborated information related to the
mobile BW project.
- The second source was a civil engineer who reported on the
existence of at least one truck-transportable facility in December
2000 at the Karbala ammunition depot.
- The third source reported in 2002 that Iraq had manufactured
mobile systems for the production of single-cell protein on trailers
and railcars but admitted that they could be used for BW agent
- The fourth source, a defector from the Iraq Intelligence Service,
reported that Baghdad manufactured mobile facilities that we assess
could be used for the research of BW agents, vice production.
Our analysis of the mobile production plant found in April indicates
the layout and equipment are consistent with information provided by the
chemical engineer, who has direct knowledge of Iraq's mobile BW program.
- The source recognized pictures of this trailer, among photographs
of unrelated equipment, as a mobile BW production plant similar to the
one that he managed, even pointing out specific pieces of equipment
that were installed on his unit.
[Click image to enlarge]
Common elements between the source's description and the trailers include
a control panel, fermentor, water tank, holding tank, and two sets of
gas cylinders. One set of gas cylinders was reported to provide
clean gasesoxygen and nitrogenfor production, and the other
set captured exhaust gases, concealing signatures of BW agent production.
- The discovered trailers also incorporate air-stirred fermentors,
which the source reported were part of the second-generation plant design.
- Externally, the trailers have a ribbed superstructure to support
a canvas covering that matches the source's description.
- Data plates on the fermentors indicate that they were manufactured
at the same plant the source said manufactured equipment for the first
generation of mobile plants. The plant also was involved
in the production of equipment used in Iraq's pre-Gulf war BW program.
Employees of the facility that produced the mobile production plants'
fermentor revealed that seven fermentors were produced in 1997, one in
2002 and one in 2003.
[Click image to enlarge]
- The seven fermentors appear to corroborate the source's reporting
that Iraq in the mid-1990s planned to produce seven mobile production
- The two fermentors produced in 2002 and 2003 reportedly were sent
to the al-Kindi Research, Testing, Development, and Engineering facility
in Mosulthe site where the second trailer was foundand probably
are the fermentors found on the trailers in US custody.
There are a few inconsistencies between the source's reporting and the
trailers, which probably reflect design improvements.
- The original plants were reported to be mounted on flatbed trailers
reinforced by nickel-plate flooring and equipped with hydraulic support
legs. The discovered plants are mounted on heavy equipment transporters
intended to carry army tanks, obviating the need for reinforced floors
and hydraulic legs.
- The trailers have a cooling unit not included in the original plant
design, probably to solve overheating problems during the summer months
as described by the source.
- The original design had 18 pumps, but the source mentioned an effort
to reduce the number to four in the new design. The trailer discovered
in late April has three pumps.
Coalition experts on fermentation and systems engineering examined the
trailer found in late April and have been unable to identify any legitimate
industrial usesuch as water purification, mobile medical laboratory,
vaccine or pharmaceutical productionthat would justify the effort
and expense of a mobile production capability. We have investigated
what other industrial processes may require such equipmenta fermentor,
refrigeration, and a gas capture systemand agree with the experts
that BW agent production is the only consistent, logical purpose for these
- The capability of the system to capture and compress exhaust gases
produced during fermentation is not required for legitimate biological
processes and strongly indicates attempts to conceal production activity.
- The presence of caustic in the fermentor combined with the recent
painting of the plant may indicate an attempt to decontaminate and conceal
the plant's purpose.
- Finally, the data plate on the fermentor indicates that this system
was manufactured in 2002 and yet it was not declared to the United Nations,
as required by Security Council Resolutions.
Some coalition analysts assess that the trailer found in late April could
be used for bioproduction but believe it may be a newer prototype because
the layout is not entirely identical to what the source described.
[Click image to enlarge]
A New York Times article on 13 May 2003 reported that an agricultural
expert suggests the trailers might have been intended to produce biopesticides
near agricultural areas in order to avoid degradation problems.
The same article also reported that a former weapons inspector suggests
that the trailers may be chemical-processing units intended to refurbish
Iraq's antiaircraft missiles.
- Biopesticide production requires the same equipment and technology
used for BW agent production; however, the off-gas collection system
and the size of the equipment are unnecessary for biopesticide production.
There is no need to produce biopesticides near the point of use because
biopesticides do not degrade as quickly as most BW agents and would
be more economically produced at a large fixed facility. In addition,
the color of the trailer found in mid-April is indicative of military
rather than civilian use.
- Our missile experts have no explanation for how such a trailer could
function to refurbish antiaircraft missiles and judge that such a use
is unlikely based on the scale, configuration, and assessed function
of the equipment.
- The experts cited in the editorial are not on the scene and probably
do not have complete access to information about the trailers.
Production Cover Story
Senior Iraqi officials of the al-Kindi Research, Testing, Development,
and Engineering facility in Mosul were shown pictures of the mobile production
trailers, and they claimed that the trailers were used to chemically produce
hydrogen for artillery weather balloons. Hydrogen production would
be a plausible cover story for the mobile production units.
- The Iraqis have used sophisticated denial and deception methods that
include the use of cover stories that are designed to work. Some
of the features of the trailera gas collection system and the
presence of causticare consistent with both bioproduction and
The plant's design possibly could be used to produce hydrogen using a
chemical reaction, but it would be inefficient. The capacity of
this trailer is larger than typical units for hydrogen production for
weather balloons. Compact, transportable hydrogen generation systems
are commercially available, safe, and reliable.
Collection and Analysis
We continue to examine the trailer found in mid-April and are using advanced
sample analysis techniques to determine whether BW agent is present, although
we do not expect samples to show the presence of BW agent. We suspect
that the Iraqis thoroughly decontaminated the vehicle to remove evidence
of BW agent production. Despite the lack of confirmatory samples,
we nevertheless are confident that this trailer is a mobile BW production
plant because of the source's description, equipment, and design.
- The initial set of samples, now in the United States, was
taken from sludge from inside the fermentor, liquid that was in the
system and wipes from the equipment. A sample set also was provided
to a coalition partner for detailed laboratory analysis.
- As we expected, preliminary sample analysis results are negative
for five standard BW agents, including Bacillus anthracis, and
for growth media for those agents. In addition, the preliminary
results indicate the presence of sodium azide and urea, which do not
support Iraqi claims that the trailer was for hydrogen production.
- Additional sample analysis is being conducted to identify growth
media, agent degradation products, and decontamination chemicals that
could be specific for BW agents, as well as to identify a chemical associated
with hydrogen production.
Production Plant Versus Mobile Laboratory?
Although individuals often interchangeably use the terms production plant
and laboratory, they have distinct meanings. The mobile production
plants are designed for batch production of biological material and not
for laboratory analysis of samples. A truck-mounted mobile laboratory
would be equipped for analysis and small-scale laboratory activities.
US forces discovered one such laboratory in late April.
- The mobile laboratoryinstalled in a box-bodied truckis
equipped with standard, dual-use laboratory equipment, including autoclaves,
an incubator, centrifuges, and laboratory test tubes and glassware.
- These laboratories could be used to support a mobile BW production
plant but serve legitimate functions that are applicable to public heath
and environmental monitoring, such as water-quality sampling.
[Click image to enlarge]
[Click image to enlarge]