The origins of the Al-Hussein could be traced back to the first stages of the war with Iran. Iraq was the first belligerent to use long range artillery rockets during the Iran–Iraq War, firing limited numbers of FROG-7s at the towns of Dezful and Ahvaz. Iran responded with Scud-Bs obtained from Libya. These missiles can hit a target 185 miles away, therefore key Iraqi cities like Sulaymaniya, Kirkuk, and Baghdad itself came within the range of this weapon.
Iraq, which also deployed the Scud-B, was conversely unable to strike the main Iranian industrial centers, including the capital, Teheran, because these are located more than 300 miles from the border. To surmount the Iranian advantage, Iraqi engineers designed a program to upgrade the original Scuds into a series of ballistic missiles whose range would surpass 500 miles. The assembly facility was located near Taji.
The first development, called Al-Hussein or Project 1728, with a range of 400 miles, allowed the Iraqi army to attack deep inside the Iranian boundaries. The range was extended by reducing the original 945 kg warhead to 500 kg and increasing the propellant capacity. The warhead carried HE, although it had Chemical, Biological and Nuclear capabilities. According to UN inspectors reports, the Iraqis were able to produce all the major components of the system by 1991. The Al-Hussein was 12.46 meters long and had a diameter of 0.88. The guidance was inertial, without terminal phase. The altitude where the motor burnt out was 31 miles, while the trajectory highest altitude or apogee, was 94 miles. The accuracy for the impact, or Circular error probable, was estimated in a radius of 1,000 meters, and the missile launch weight was 6,400 kg. Its flight time was of about seven minutes for the maximum range.
The missile fuel was common to every tactical missile of the Cold war: a mix of kerosene, ignited by a nitric acid oxidizer, called IRFNA. Each missile loaded 4,500 kg of liquid propellant, composed by a 22% of kerosene and 78% of IRFNA.
The Iraqis also modified the extension of the launch rail of 11 Soviet-produced MAZ-543 to fit them for the longer local-built missiles. The unit responsible for the maintenance and operation of the new missiles was initially the 224 Brigade, already established since 1976 to deal with the R-17 Scuds imported from the Soviet Union in 1972.
By 1989, a second army Brigade was formed, the 223, equipped with 4 locally developed trailer launchers, known as the Al-Nida. There were also a second indigenous launcher, the Al-Waleed, but apparently it never became operational.
Some concrete silos were built west of Ar Rutba, near the border with Jordan. They were destroyed by precision bombings carried out by USAF F-15s during the first hours of Operation Desert Storm.