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Supergun parts destined for Iraq

The Story

Gerald Bull is dead, but apparently his supergun project lives on. British customs officers have discovered huge metal tubes about to be shipped to Iraq. The Iraqis say the tubes are part of an oil pipeline, but experts suspect they're actually parts of the barrel for a supergun. The CBC's As It Happens talks an employee of Jane's Defence Weekly, the weapons industry's magazine of record.

Medium: Radio
Program: As It Happens
Broadcast Date: April 12, 1990
Guest(s): Henry Dodds
Host: Alan Maitland
Reporter: Dale Goldhawk
Duration: 6:24

Did You know?

• Many of the specifications for the Iraqi supergun, Project Babylon, died with Gerald Bull. The Martlet IV -- a projectile capable of carrying a satellite into space -- was one of them.

• Whether Iraq actually planned to use the supergun to launch a satellite or for a more sinister purpose is unknown. Some point out that a huge, immovable gun would make an easy target and therefore isn't much use as a weapon.

• A smaller prototype, nicknamed Baby Babylon, was built in 1989. It was 45 metres long and had a barrel width of 350 millimetres, while the big Babylon gun was to be 156 metres long with a one-metre bore. Baby Babylon blew up on its first test.

• The Iraqis at first denied that the pipes were destined for Project Babylon, but in July 1991 they finally admitted they were parts for a supergun.

• The Baby Babylon gun, parts of the bigger gun and supergun propellant were destroyed by UN teams following the Gulf War in 1991.

• In 1992 a British parliamentary inquiry into the affair learned that British intelligence officials knew about the supergun project well in advance of its discovery. There's also evidence that the United States and Israeli secret services knew about it as well.


Dr. Gerald Bull: Scientist, Weapons Maker, Dreamer more