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U.S. trying to perfect Scud hunting

Iraq fired dozens of Scud missiles during the Persian Gulf War.
Iraq fired dozens of Scud missiles during the Persian Gulf War.

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The Pentagon is eager to use new technologies to hunt down and target Scud missile launchers hidden in Iraq. CNN's Barbara Starr reports. (January 15)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With the United States and its allies preparing for a possible war with Iraq, the Pentagon is perfecting new methods of finding and destroying Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's arsenal of Scud missiles, which were used with terrorizing effect during the Persian Gulf War.

The U.S. Air Force is training to use unmanned Predator drones to target the two dozen Scud missiles that Iraq is suspected of having. The drones, which were not available during Operation Desert Storm, can fly over an area for up to 24 hours, waiting for launchers to move from their hiding places.

U.S. forces also will be able to use a system called the Joint Tactical Ground Station, which can detect when a missile is fired and immediately pinpoint the launcher's location. During the Gulf War, pilots had to wait for data from passing satellites, which could take an hour or more.

U.S. warplanes flew hundreds of missions during the 1991 war looking for the missiles, but they mostly failed. Iraqi crews were successful at the art of "shoot and scoot," firing their missiles and then moving the launchers before the United States could find them.

"Initially, the Scud hunting was done from the air only," said retired Brig. Gen. David Grange. "From that altitude, 10,000 to 15,000 feet, to find camouflaged concealed weapons systems was a very difficult to do."

Scud missiles have limited accuracy, but they gave Saddam the reach to strike targets in Israel and Saudi Arabia. In all, Iraq fired 88 of the missiles during the war, infuriating the Israeli government, which threatened to enter the fight. Israel is taking precautions to ward off such strikes this time. (Full story)

In February 1991, a month after the war began, a missile hit a U.S. barracks near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 28 U.S. troops and wounding more than 100. It was the single worst attack on U.S. forces during the war.

CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr contributed to this report.



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