Thursday, February 22, 2007

The campaign against cluster bombs

A Mk. 20 Rockeye II cluster bomb

A sub-munition from a Rockeye cluster bomb

Over the past year or so, there's been a growing international outcry against the use of cluster munitions. Just today, Norway's foreign minister opened an international conference aimed at banning cluster munitions.

I'm not an expert on the topic, but for the uninitiated, a cluster munition is essentially a bomb dispenser, usually air-dropped or artillery fired, which opens in flight to deliver dozens of sub-munitions. These sub-munitions, or bomblets, scatter over the immediate area to do their thing.

Cluster bombs are perfectly legal under the laws of armed conflict and can be a highly effective weapon against certain targets. For example, consider an enemy air base with a few dozen fighter or bomber aircraft sitting on a parking ramp. A couple of cluster bombs delivered over the tarmac would scatter dozens, maybe hundreds, of bomblets over the parking ramp, destroying or disabling nearly every airplane in a single pass.

Other targets suitable for various types of cluster bombs are enemy troop concentrations (not pleasant to contemplate, but legitimate), supply/ammo depots, truck parks, runways, etc.

Where cluster bombs get a bad rap is where they're used as "area denial" weapons. In this role, sub-muntions are fused to detonate after a delay or upon being disturbed. Unfortunately, this is where cluster bombs become a serious threat to civilian populations, often long after combat operations have ceased. In this case the bomblets are essentially land mines and should be classified as such, rather than classifying all cluster munitions as land mines.

1 comment:

ben said...

I love cluster bombs!!!! Lets put a bunch on Iran and Holywood.