Air Weapons: October 20, 2002

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For nearly a year, Iraq has been reported to be modifying Czech L-29 jet trainers to operate as cruise missiles. The 3.2 ton L-29 first appeared in the early 1960s and for the next two decades was the principal jet trainer in communist air forces. Some 3,500 were produced and hundreds are still in service. While the L-29 has a top speed of 650 kilometers, and a one way range of some 1200 kilometers, it can only carry about half a ton of weapons. Moreover, as a cruise missile, it would be easily spotted by AWACs and other U.S. radar systems. It is suggested that the L-29 would be used to carry biological or chemical weapons. Half a ton of that stuff is not a very effective load, especially when the chances of getting it delivered are so low. It's unlikely that the Iraqis have been able to produce a half ton nuclear bomb either. For the moment, the L-29 cruise missile remains something of a mystery. 

 


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