Rocket demolition tests at Dugway
WASHINGTON, May 27, 1997, (GulfLINK)- On May 15, the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) began a series of small scale demolition tests designed to assist in developing a model of the detonation of chemical weapons by U.S. troops at Khamisiyah, Iraq on March 10, 1991. The results of these tests are expected to assist in answering two fundamental questions: 1) who may have been exposed to chemical agents at Khamisiyah, and 2) to what extent they may have been exposed.
The tests at Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah are funded by the DoD and performed in collaboration with the CIA. The cooperative effort ensures the optimum use of the government's expertise and resources in clarifying the events surrounding the demolition at the ammunition storage facility in Southeastern Iraq at the end of the Gulf War.
Dugway Proving Grounds provides a specialized test center where the results can be performed using the expertise and objectivity of technical experts. The CIA contributes extensive modeling experience and intelligence work to the endeavor, as well as comprehensive interviews with soldiers involved in the demolition itself. At the recommendation of the Institute for Defense Analysis, other agencies such as the Naval Surface Warfare Center, the Defense Special Weapons Agency, and the Naval Research Laboratory are furnishing their expertise in constructing models which predict the transportation and diffusion of materials over the Khamisiyah landscape and the meteorology on the day of March 10, 1991. With advice from a panel of national experts, DoD and CIA will collaboratively develop the best available model to better understand what happened at Khamisiyah in the pit area, and who might have been exposed to agents as a result of the March 10 demolitions.
The Dugway testing is not intended to replicate the Khamisiyah detonation exactly, because exact details of the event are ambiguous and unknown and often can only be estimated from existing photographs and individual accounts. The process involves a series of scientific experiments to determine what happens when rockets are blown up in a manner similar to that of March 10, 1991.
To conduct the experiment, DoD is using 32 foreign-made 122mm rockets and warheads filled with the simulant triethyl phosphate, a substance which had already been approved for outdoor testing in Dugway Proving Ground, in National Environmental Policy Act documents and air approval orders. Triethyl phosphate was chosen for the testing because when exploded in the rockets, it disperses in a manner similar to sarin gas. Consequently, testing poses no health threat to the surrounding community.
The testing process fundamentally examines how the rockets explode and how much material vaporizes or spills into the ground. Information derived from the tests will be applied to mathematical models which are used to predict the direction in which the chemical agent may have traveled, how far it traveled, how fast, and at what concentration.
The demolition tests will be performed several times, starting with the explosion of a single test rocket on May 15, 1997. Over the two week period, there will be a series of test explosions which will use increasing numbers of rockets at a time. The final, largest test will explode nine rockets simultaneously.
The Department of Defense and the CIA have arranged for the media, the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses, Congressional staffs, and national veterans' service organizations to view weapons demolition testing at the site near Salt Lake City, Utah on Wednesday, May 28, 1997. Although conducting the test is weather-dependent, the completion date is planned for May 31. It is expected that findings will be published by late July.