Royal Armouries

Iraqi supergun


Iraqi supergun, 1988 - xix.842-3

Iraqi supergun, 1988 - xix.842-3

  • Iraqi supergun, 1988 - xix.842-3

    Iraqi supergun, 1988 - xix.842-3

Date: 1988 | Object number: XIX.842-3

Iraqi supergun


Collection no. XIX.842-3
Date 1988
Calibre (mm) 1,000
Barrel length (m) 156
Weight (tonnes) 2,100
Projectile weight (kg)
Fire rate (per minute)

Philip Magrath, curator of artillery, inspects the Iraqi supergun at Fort Nelson

Hitting the headlines: ‘Arms for Iraq’

When Saddam Hussein commissioned ballistics expert Dr Gerald Bull to build a Supergun he had hoped that ‘Project Babylon’ would give Iraq a technological lead in the Middle East. Bull’s Supergun made the headlines – but for all the wrong reasons.

Everything about the design of Bull’s new gun was ‘super’. The barrel would be nearly three times the height of Nelson’s Column. The projectile that it would fire would be almost as big as a telephone box. Bull commissioned British companies to manufacture the barrel in 26 sections – to be bolted together in Iraq.

On 11 April 1990 Customs officers swooped to seize eight sections of Supergun barrel, including these. They were the last of 52 tubes which would have made up two complete gun barrels. ‘Arms for Iraq’ became a worldwide news story. At the United Nations, Iraqi ambassador Mohammed Mashrat denied the existence of the project, claiming ‘The only super thing about this story is that it is a super lie’.

If all its tubes had been fully assembled it would have stretched over 150 metres and been able to send a projectile into a low orbit. These pieces of the Supergun’s barrel were seized by British Customs officers in March 1990 just before despatch to Iraq. The gun’s inventor, Gerald Bull, was found mysteriously murdered in his Brussels apartment several days earlier.

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