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Project Babylon was a project allegedly commissioned by the Iraqi president Saddam Hussein during the Iran–Iraq War to build a series of superguns. The design was based on research from the 60s Project HARP led by the Canadian artillery expert Gerald Bull. Although the details are sketchy, it appears that there were four different devices in total included in the program.
The project was supposedly halted in 1990 after Gerald Bull was assassinated and parts of the superguns were allegedly seized in transit around Europe. However, during the 1991 Gulf War the UK Government announced that the parts it had seized were oil pipes and not parts for a gun, as Iraq had claimed throughout. The remaining components in Iraq were allegedly destroyed by the United Nations after the 1991 Gulf War.
From the prologue, pg. 14.
By way of return for the much-needed artillery and supergun orders, Bull had also agreed to help the Iraqis in other areas. And now he believed that maybe the enemies of Iraq had discovered his help. Surely that was why his apartment was being mysteriously entered, and why not so subtle clues were being left. He was being warned. Someone was telling him to drop the deal with Iraq. But even though he was frightened, he couldn't afford to pull out.
The 40.6 cm Schiffskanone C/34, sometimes known as the Adolfkanone (Adolf gun), was a German naval gun, designed in 1934 by Krupp and originally intended for the H Class battleships.
Date of design- 1934
Entered service - 1942 (as coastal defense guns)
Bore - 16 inches (406 mm)
Length - 69.3 ft (21 m)
Weight - 176.25 tons
Rate of fire - 2 rounds per minute
Shell weight - 2,271 lbs. (1,030 kg)
Propellant weight - 2 part charge 128 and 134 kg
Range - 39,800 yards (36,400 m) at 30 degrees
Muzzle Velocity - Standard Charge: 2,657 ft/s (810 m/s)
2 gun turret Drh LC/34 (1,475 Metric tons)
At this point Bull convinced the Iraqis that they would never be a real power without the capability for space launches. He offered to build a cannon capable of such launches, basically an even larger version of the original HARP design. Saddam Hussein was interested, and work started on Project Babylon.
A smaller 45 metre, 350mm calibre gun was completed for testing purposes, and Bull then started work on the "real" PC-2 machine, a gun that was 150 metres long, weighed 2100 tonnes, with a bore of one metre (three feet). It was to be capable of placing a 2000kg projectile into orbit. However at this point the Iraqis told Bull they would only go ahead with the project if he would also help with development of their longer ranged SCUD-based missile project. Bull, never the politician, agreed.
Construction of the individual sections of the new gun started in England at Matrix Churchill[?] and also in Spain, Holland and Switzerland. Meanwhile Bull worked on the SCUD project, making calculations for the new nose-cone needed for the higher re-entry speeds and temperatures the missile would face. At this point Mossad started "warning" him to stop working on the missiles. Over a period of a few months his apartment was broken into several times but nothing was stolen. He nevertheless continued to work on the project, and in March 1990 he was shot five times in the back of the neck while opening his door.
The supergun project was stopped when its parts were seized by Customs in England in November 1990, and most of Bull's staff returned to Canada. The smaller test gun was later broken up after the Gulf War.
A court in the German city of Mannheim has convicted two businessmen of supplying weapons-making equipment to Iraq in violation of UN sanctions.
Engineer Bernd Schompeter was sentenced to five years and three months for dealing in drills that can be used for boring tubes for long-range cannons, capable of launching nuclear, chemical or biological warheads.
Prosecutors are seeking extradition of the third man, Sahib Abd al-Amir al-Haddad, following his arrest in Bulgaria in November.
The BBC's Jonathan Charles says prosecutors are hoping the punishments will deter others from helping Iraq to obtain weapons.
There are concerns that this may not be an isolated case and investigations into other companies are continuing.
Inquiry told Iraq could not 'use' chemical weapons
Sir William Ehrman speaking at the inquiry
The UK received intelligence days before invading Iraq that Saddam Hussein may not have been able use chemical weapons, an adviser has said.
Foreign Office official Sir William Ehrman told the war inquiry that a report suggested that such weapons may have been "disassembled".
A separate report suggested Iraq might also "lack" warheads capable of spreading chemical agents, he added.
But Sir William defended the invasion, saying Iraq had flouted UN resolutions.
Sir William, the Foreign Office's director general for defence and intelligence between 2002 and 2004, insisted that the role of intelligence in the decision to go to war was "limited".
He also said it was a "surprise" no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were ever found in Iraq.
"It was not what we had expected," he added.
The reasons for going to war in Iraq - including the now discredited claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction which could be used within 45 minutes of an order being given - remain a long-standing source of controversy.
In its second day of public hearings, the inquiry looked into Iraq's weapons capability and its influence on the decision to go to war.