Iraq's ultra-light aircraft has evaded U.S. air defenses, poses bio-chem threat


April 2, 2003

In what could mark the start of sabotage missions against U.S. ground forces, Iraq is shifting emphasis from fighter-jets to ultra-light aircraft.

Officials said at least 25 Iraqi ultra-light aircraft have been seen in southern Iraq near U.S. troops concentrations. The appearance of the aircraft has alarmed U.S. commanders who had concluded that Iraq terminated all air operations.

The ultra-light propeller aircraft are not strong enough to carry conventional payloads. But officials said they could spread biological or chemical weapons agents in attacks on U.S. troops.

The Iraqi aircraft was first seen on March 28 in central Iraq near units of the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division. U.S. Central Command has not provided details of the Iraqi aircraft.

"They have not flown an airplane," said Maj. Gen. Victor Renuart, director of operations at Central Command. "They have not had the capability to fly an airplane. They've not shown any inclination to fly an airplane. We're concerned about any possible use of an airplane to conduct terror or military operations and we watch that very, very carefully."

U.S. Central Command asserts that it controls 95 percent of Iraqi air space. They said the remaining five percent is a small area around Baghdad, where numerous Iraqi anti-aircraft batteries have been deployed.

The small Iraqi ultra-lights have managed to evade U.S. air defense systems, flying over an assembly area of U.S. helicopters and infantry fighting vehicles. So far, U.S. forces have not succeeded in shooting them down.

Capt. Ruel Smith, commander in the 1st Battalion, 3rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, said U.S. forces had been warned to expect attacks by Iraqi paragliders, a steerable parachute canopy. The ultra-light has a stable framed wing.

Iraq has tried to buy at least 100 ultra-lights from a European company, officials said. So far, 50 of them have been delivered.


Israeli military: Saddam still controls much of western Iraq

Israel's military has assessed that the regime of President Saddam Hussein remains in control of large parts of the western portion of the country.

Israeli military commanders said British and U.S. forces have begun operating in the areas of H-2 and H-3, near the Jordanian border. But they stressed that Iraqi units and facilities remain active.

"In western Iraq, there isn't U.S. control," Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon said. "There is U.S. presence. Western Iraq is two and a half times the size of the state of Israel."

Israel has been in close contact with U.S. Central Command and its operations in western Iraq. Israeli sources said U.S. and British forces have succeeded in locating and striking armored units of the Republican Guard in western Iraq.

"We have a good many forces in the west," U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said. "And they are ranging across the entire western portion of Iraq. You never can be certain. The hope and the prayer is that we have successfully prevented the firing of ballistic missiles that can strike neighboring countries."

Later, however, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said U.S. forces control the areas of H-2 and H-3 used to fire Al Husseini missiles during the 1991 Gulf war. But he added, "It's a great big area and you can never be sure you've got everything."

Israeli commanders said they have no plans to lower the level of alert and preparedness. They said the allied seizure of Iraqi airports in H-2 and H-3 does not constitute control of the area.

"As long as the regime of Saddam Hussein exists and western Iraq is not under control of coalition forces, the threat to Israel is not diminshed and thus there is no change in the level of preparedness." Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, a leading Israeli spokesman said. "Taking control of the airports in H2 and H3 does not diminish or eliminate the danger."


Geostrategy-Direct,, April 8, 2003
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