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SCUD - ? the final answer

Posted by James Briggs on March 20, 2000

Theres a web site called Ask A Librarian at (). This is a co-operative site run by many British libraries. They were asked if they could find the origin of SCUD. They refer questions to individual librarians and Jane Cowper in East Sussex County Council gave a very comprehensive reply as follows:

Thank you for using Ask A Librarian.
In answer to your enquiry, according to the Centre for Defence and International Secruity Studies at Lancaster University () the term 'Scud' is Nato terminology, but doesn't say what it stands for:
To maintain and expand his missile stockpile Saddam Hussein ordered the building of an indigenous missile design, development and manufacturing infrastructure. By the August 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Iraq was able to deploy a force of Iraqi-modified extended-range versions of the Soviet designed R-17 missile (known as the SS-IC Scud B in NATO terminology) called the AI Hussein and the AI Abbas. Some 650 R-17 missiles and 36 MAZ launch vehicles were sold to Iraq by the Soviet Union. By cannibalising R-17 Scud missiles and the indigenous production of some components, the Iraqis were able to build two extended range versions of the 300 km range R-17 - the AI Hussein or AI Hosseih - with a range of 600 to 650 km and the AI Abbas, or AI Hijarah, with a range of 750 km to 900 km. For simplicity's sake, all Iraqi-modified Scud missiles are hereafter refered to by the generic term "Scud".
I checked the NATO website but couldn't find mention of a definition. There's also quite a lot of info on the Federation of American Scientists site at but, again, no actual definition.
According to the WorldWideWeb Acronym and Abbreviation Server it stands for Subsonic Cruise Unarmed Decoy. However, this seems unlikely as they are obviously armed!
My colleague believes that Nato are simply in the habit of giving 'names' to soviet military hardware and that it therefore doesn't actually stand for anything. The dictionary definition of the verb 'to scud' is 'to run or skim along swiftly and easily' ( which makes sense for the name of a missile. Also, wherever it is referred to it is written as Scud, rather than SCUD, which to my mind suggests a word rather than an acronym.