A look at Iraq's military capabilities
Because his conventional troops are poorly equipped, unmotivated, and badly led, Saddam Hussein may have no choice but to "fight dirty." In addition to quickly resorting to chemical or biological weapons, the Iraqi dictator could take the fight to the cities or even attack his own people to discourage defections. Here's a look at his conventional forces:
Air defense radar and surface-to-air missile systems:
¶ SA-3 batteries: 24
¶ SA-6 batteries: 10
¶ SA-2 batteries: 22, including 13 modified SA-2s.
Other equipment: Fiber-optic communications system that links most of Iraq. Unknown numbers of mobile air defenses ("shoot-and-scoot" systems). Anti-aircraft artillery ("triple A") and man-portable shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. Soviet-made aerial observer network and passive detection system. May also have purchased and received advanced "Kolchuga" air defense system from Ukraine.
Location of assets: Most air defense assets are in Central Iraq, out of reach of US and British aircraft patrolling the Northern and Southern no-fly zones.
Capabilities assessment: Iraq is capable of maintaining an accurate radar picture of its skies at high- and medium-altitudes; some degradation of capabilities at low altitudes.
Republican Guard Divisions: 6
Republican Guard Soldiers: 80,000 to 90,000
Special Republic Guard (Saddam’s most elite forces): 12,500
Current Location of Republican Guards: three divisions in and around Baghdad, two divisions in Northern Iraq to control Kurdish population; one division southeast of Baghdad
Capabilities Assessment: Most units close to 100 percent manning strength. Units control all of Iraq’s remaining T-72 tanks.
Number of combat aircraft: 300
Types of aircraft: Most are MiG-21s; some F-1s, MiG-25s, and MiG-29s.
Air-capable aircraft: At any given time, 60 to 80 percent of aircraft are flyable. Of these, a smaller subset is fully mission-capable
Number of pilots: N/A
Pilot flying training hours per year: 20 to 50 (US military combat pilots typically fly that many hours each month).
Unmanned aerial vehicles: Yes, a new drone whose purpose appears to be reconnaissance but that is capable of delivering chemical and biological agents. UAV’s flight range includes Israel.
Note: Saddam Hussein has a special distrust of his Air Force, due to repeated coup plots on the part of Air Force senior leaders, including a major 1995 attempt that almost succeeded.
Number of Special Forces Brigades: Two (down from four in 1990-91)
Number of Soldiers per Special Forces Brigade: 1,800 to 3,000
Current Location of SF Brigades: One in Baghdad, one west of Baghdad
Capabilities: Advanced infantry tactics, some night-vision and night-fighting capabilities.
Missile forces include:
¶ Scuds — al-Husseins (effective range of 400 miles) and possibly al-Habas (560 miles)
¶ Al-Samud missiles (estimated effective range 125 miles)
Total Number of Army Divisions: 23 (down from 70 in 1990-91): six are Republican Guard; 11 are infantry; six are heavy armor.
Number of soldiers per division: approx. 10,000
Total Number of Ground Forces: 375,000
Capabilities Assessment: All soldiers are conscripts. Units suffer from manpower and equipment shortages; desertions appear high. Some infantry divisions manned at less than 50-percent strength; heavy divisions are generally better manned and supplied with 70 to 90 percent of necessary heavy equipment, such as tanks.
All units: Many divisions lack reconnaissance, medical, military police, and other units that would make them field-capable. Trucks and support vehicles in especially short supply – some units posses 30 to 40 percent of trucks required at the brigade and division levels. Due to spot shortages of ammunition, little live-fire training is conducted. Very minimal night-fighting capabilities.
Source: U.S. government intelligence officials, Dec. 18 briefing to reporters.