- The Pentagon is planning to use a British weapon that
can disable electronic and electrical systems without killing anyone to
attack Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons sites.
- The "radio frequency weapon", or E-Bomb, developed
at a secret site in south-west England, sends out a high-intensity radio
wave with similar effects to the electromagnetic pulse from a nuclear blast.
- It is also able to penetrate the underground bunkers
where Saddam's chemical and biological weapons are stored as protection
from allied bombing. The radio pulse will travel easily down the bunkers'
power and ventilation ducts.
- One of the biggest problems facing allied troops if they
were sent into Iraq would be that, with any attack aimed at removing him
from power, Saddam knows he has nothing to lose in using his weapons of
- Bombing the sites would only spread the chemical or biological
agents, killing innocent Iraqi civilians and threatening invading forces.
- By using the E-bomb to cripple the plants' refrigeration
and computer systems, the allies would ensure that the weapons could not
be used in any effective way.
- Although the weapon is still in the final stages of development,
American defence sources said they were interested in acquiring it for
immediate deployment in any attack on Iraqi chemical and biological weapons
- The E-Bomb can be made to have a limited range and be
delivered by cruise missile, by smart bomb, or by one of the unmanned aerial
vehicles which proved their effectiveness during the campaign in Afghanistan,
one British official said.
- As it approaches its target, an array of aerials spring
out and its capacitors discharge themselves, sending out a burst of high-powered
microwave energy to disable electrical and electronic systems.
- The weapon was developed by the novel technology department
of Matra BAe Dynamics. It gives credence to the nightmare scenario of a
high-technology war when the enemy could disable the radio, radar, and
computer systems on which modern defences depend.
- The weapon can also bring civil infrastructure to a standstill,
closing national electricity grids, stopping telephone, radio and television
- The discovery that Russia was close to producing the
E-bomb sparked a race to build similar weapons and counter-measures to
protect against them in which Britain has become the world leader.
- MI6 has told ministers that Iraq may still possess tons
of chemical warfare agents, the necessary materials to produce thousands
of litres of biological agents and as many as 10 Scud missiles with which
to deliver them.
- Iraq has admitted that before the Gulf war it manufactured
100 botulinum bombs, 50 anthrax bombs, and seven aflatoxin bombs. Five
missile warheads were filled with anthrax, 16 with botulinum, and four
- The Iraqi chemical warfare arsenal is known to include:
- The nerve agents Sarin and VX. Colourless and tasteless,
they cause death by respiratory arrest in one to 15 minutes.
- Blister agents such as mustard gas. Severely incapacitating,
they damage tissue, causing extensive large blisters.
- Psychoactive agents such as Agent 15. Symptoms include
dizziness, vomiting and hallucinations lasting for days. Biological warfare
agents produced by Iraq include:
- Anthrax. Symptoms initially resemble that of a common
cold and are only identifiable in the fatal phase. Once this begins, vomiting,
severe head and joint pain, and respiratory distress will lead to death
in one to three days.
- Botulinum. Causes botulism. Symptoms include nausea,
diarrhoea, paralysis of the throat and convulsions, followed by death due
to respiratory arrest.
- Aflotoxins. Poisons produced by fungi and mould, they
have the capacity to cause liver cancer.
- Ricin. Inhalation leads to weakness, fever and pulmonary
oedema within 24 hours followed by death.
- Clostridium perfringens. A bacterium which causes gangrene.