American, British and Kuwait military officials said Iraq fired at least three missiles Thursday — though they differed on how many of them were Scuds, which have been banned by the United Nations.
CBS News weapons analyst and former U.N. weapons inspector Stephen Black says the U.S.-British coalition has pretty good systems for localizing launches of ballistic missiles and will be able to track the trajectory of the Iraqi missiles.
The final verdict comes when the wreckage on the ground can be examined. Once someone gets a look at the pieces, Black explains, it won't take too long to figure out what kind of a missile it was.
Kuwaiti officials said the first two were Scuds, similar to the ones the Iraqis fired in the 1991 Gulf War.
Iraq told U.N. inspectors in its December weapons declaration that it no longer had the Scud missiles it used against Iran in the 1980s and against Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Israel during the 1991 Gulf War.
Black says closer inspections of damage will tell the story.
"They have the Al-Hussein missile, the long-range system fired against Israel in the 1991 war," says Black noting inspectors have been searching for them throughout the 1990s.
"They also have the Al Samoud 2, which is the shorter range, about 120 miles that they have been told to destroy by the U.N. inspectors," he says. About 72 of those have been destroyed, Black says.
He also estimates that Iraq acquired 819 Scud missiles (corkscrew missiles that can be extremely hard to hit) over a long period of time. "The assessment is still that seven to about 12 of them are thought to remain in Iraq," he says.
"If the distance is greater than the maximum forecasted range for the Al Samoud 2 system, you know it's another missile," Black says. "If it's shorter than what would be expected to fly, it's probably the Al Samoud 2 system."
The Al Samoud had a range under 150 kilometers, but Saddam Hussein modified it, "made it longer, more fuel in it, goes further, it was flying at prohibited range so the U.N. decided to destroy them," Black says.
"There are two big factors at play here," Black continues. "One, those hidden Al Husseins have been hidden all this time.
"Their ability to do maintenance or do training with them is unlikely. The Al Samouds, however, they've been test-firing them, static and doing dynamic test launches. They've more recently manufactured and they're easier to maintain."
Black estimates Iraq may have 30, 40, or 50 of these Al Samoud missiles left but they've only got a handful of launchers, and without a launcher, the missiles aren't of any use. The key, he notes, is to find launch locations.