Azerbaijan

Comparing Ganja to the Gulf, the power of SCUDS missiles when used against civilians

By | Rachel Brooks

October 21, 2020

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When one examines the devastation dolled out upon Azerbaijan by the Armenian offensive, one must not be tempted to undermine it because of the limited size and resource of Armenia’s forces. The Armenian state has managed to work around the problem of limited sources by saving the most damaging arsenal for civilians. SCUDS Missile, maximum damage missiles with 600 km range, were the weapon of choice of Sadaam Hussein during the Gulf War of the 1990s. 

 

Ombudsman prepares ballistics of the Ganja 2020 attacks 

AzerNews reported on October 21 that the Azerbaijani Commissioner for Human Rights (Ombudsman) has prepared a report of the attacks on Ganja in 2020. The ballistic report includes information on the civilian casualties and structure damages of the attack, which was the result of SCUDS firing from the Armenian line. The SCUDs were fired from the Armenian territory at approximately 01:00 local time (GMT+4) on October 17. Ganja is located 100 kilometers from the conflict zone in Nagorno-Karabakh. 

 

The official text of the ballistic missile report has not yet been retrieved. Educated estimations of the full after effect of devastation can be made by comparing the SCUDs attack on October 17 in Ganja to the attack patterns of the Hussein regime during the Gulf conflict. 

 

Iraq use of SCUDS retraced

A full overview of the impact of SCUDs used by Iraq during the Gulf conflict was prepared by veteran review of the conflict and made publicly available via FAS.org. This research was supported by information papers taken from the conflict. Hundreds of information papers were retrieved to create the report. These reports allowed investigators to retrace the use of Iraq’s SCUDs, by observing the general target area. 

The report listed opinions of the U.S. Armed Forces Center for Units Record Research (CURR) which is maintained via the U.S. Department of Defense. Information for the FAS report was provided by the estimate of a veteran of the conflict at a veteran event in 1998, who examined the findings of the CURR report. CURR incident listings has 179 incident entries which totaled 344 missiles.  The incident lists were composed of all accounts and versions of what took place during the SCUD firings of the Gulf conflict. Every account was cross referenced with each other to confirm the facts and to separate inconsistent data from the record. 

 

SCUDS variants and incidents of the Gulf conflict

 

The findings of this cross-reference state that Iraq used three variants of the SCUDS missile at this time. They were the Al Abbas, the Al Hussein, and Al Hijrah variants. The reports found that Iraq fired Al Abbas with a higher instance rate than Al Hussein. There were five documented incidents with the Al Hijrah. Some of these missiles were intercepted by Patriots missiles from the American forces mid-air. Others broke apart once they entered the denser atmosphere. 

 

Damages of SCUDS missiles were documented even in instances when the Patriots performed a successful mission kill, meaning an intercept of the missile’s trajectory. In one instance, which occurred near Riyadh on February 3, 1991, the Patriot missile deflected the SCUDS missile, but the warhead was believed to have separated, and it struck the city. The SCUD warhead that detonated in this event injured 29 civilians and damaged several buildings. 

 

Comparing incidents to released info from Ganja 2020

While a full document of the Ganja ballistics incident reports is not yet available, the facts of the October 17 event can be compared to the incidents of the Gulf conflict. Night shelling of Ganja city resulted in 14 deaths, which included five women and five children, and a total of 57 injured civilians. The known information from the Ganja event states that 20 buildings were destroyed. 

 

If one is to compare with the incident in Riyadh in 1993 to the Ganja incident, then one can see the damage inflicted by even a piece of the missile. A warhead detonation would have caused similar damage in Ganja as that which happened in the Gulf conflict in Riyadh. The reports imply that at least comparable damages occurred and that the damage patterns are similar. 

 

Damage patterns in both events shows that even technology from 30 years ago has the capacity to inflict the damages that were seen in Ganja. Armenia, even as the force with inferior resources, then, is still able to inflict maximum damages if it strategically targets its arsenal against civilians. 

“It’s very difficult to confirm without the reports that the missile was, in fact, a SCUD. However, the parts that fell and were retrieved, they would indicate that it was a SCUD of Soviet origin ” said military and defense expert Benjamin Minick. 

“The pieces would be associated with a SCUD B1, which is what was suspected. There have been some questions about blast patterns being different between SCUDs and what was seen the other day (October 17). However, that’s not necessarily accurate because SCUD is not a smart munition and there could be any number of things that cause a difference in blast pattern or destruction from point of impact.”

Minick said that, despite these anomalies, the pattern was consistent with SCUD munitions. 

“However, all signs point to it being a SCUD, and the amount of damage in the general vicinity is very telling.” 

Humanitarian initiatives, including the Human Rights Watch, have condemned the use of SCUDS projectiles on civilian populations. The use of SCUDS on Ganja is one of a series of elements that have triggered a response from the international community, and could potentially influence the course of intervention western powers pursue in mediating the conflict.