Research, Technology

What are cluster munitions and why are they banned?

Cluster munitions cause a lot of controversy, soas they were banned in May 2008 by the Convention on Cluster Munitions, an international treaty to which more than 100 countries have acceded. The reason is that they pose a great threat to civilians. However, not all countries supported the treaty. Moreover, in 2022, 16 countries continue to produce these ammunition. For example, Russia and China are even working on the creation of a new generation of cluster munitions. In addition, the warehouses of different countries contain a huge amount of cluster munitions released earlier, which means that they will be used during military conflicts for a long time despite all the prohibitions.

Cluster munitions lead to a large number of civilian casualties

What are cluster munitions

The term "cluster munitions" includesa huge amount of ammunition, ranging from artillery shells and MLRS missiles, to ballistic missiles and air bombs. All of them are united by the same principle of operation - the warhead is a container inside which contains submunitions, that is, a lot of small ammunition.

What is the meaning of such a construction?The power of a cluster munition is less than a conventional one, for example, a high-explosive one, since, in fact, it has a scattered effect. But, on the other hand, this is its advantage - one projectile is able to hit a large area, since submunitions are scattered over a large area. Spreading is carried out in the air (on approach to the ground) with an expelling or explosive charge. This allows one ammunition to hit many targets at once.

For the first time such shells were used by the Germans during the Second World War in 1940. During the Cold War, they were actively produced in the USA and the USSR. Since then, they have often been used in military conflicts.

Cluster munition is a container that contains many small submunitions (small bombs)

What are cluster munitions and what are they used for?

Most submunitions are freefalling. That is, they scatter in the air when the container is destroyed and cover a certain area. Of course, there can be no talk of any accuracy in this case, but targets are hit due to a large number of submunitions. Depending on the model, there can be from several tens to many hundreds.

However, there are submunitions thataim at the target. That is, each ammunition can change the trajectory of the fall in order to hit the selected target. As you might guess, such ammunition is more complex and expensive, so they are rarely used.

All types of cluster munitions are most oftenused to destroy enemy manpower located over a large area. However, charges can also be anti-tank or even incendiary.

Why cluster munitions are banned in many countries

Cluster munitions are among the mostdeadly weapons. Many countries have abandoned them primarily because they lead to a large number of civilian casualties. And there are several reasons for this.

Cluster munitions have a large area of ​​effect

Since they do not hit targets pointwise, but coverlarge area, their use in populated areas leads to a large number of casualties among the civilian population. There were cases when simply shooting down a missile over a populated area with a cluster warhead led to dozens of dead and wounded people.

But that is not all.The big problem is that the fuses of the cartridges are quite imperfect, as a result of which they have a high failure rate. That is, submunitions do not explode even after hitting the ground or target. After that, they, in fact, turn into mines. According to some reports, the failure rate is from 10 to 30%. Therefore, such shells lead to a large number of casualties among the population even after the end of hostilities.

In the US at some point, to make things easiersappers began to cover submunitions with bright paint. But it turned out to have an even greater negative effect, as bright, unexploded ordnance began to attract the attention of children.

Unexploded submunitions pose a great threat to civilians

True, in modern shells fusesimproved. In addition, they are often equipped with self-liquidators, but not always, as this increases production costs. But according to the Red Cross, even modern projectiles equipped with self-destructors do not completely solve the problem, since the percentage of failure is still quite high. In addition, old shells are often used in military conflicts, which, as we said above, were accumulated in huge quantities in the past decades.

According to the same Red Cross, in Laosunexploded submunitions caused more than 10,000 civilian casualties. Moreover, at present there are from 9 to 27 million unexploded shells, despite the fact that the war ended in 1975, as reported by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Therefore, many activists and international organizations continue to work to ensure that cluster munitions are recognized as banned worldwide.

And finally, we suggest that you familiarize yourself with anothera type of no less deadly projectiles, which are commonly called thermobaric, or vacuum. Unlike cluster munitions, thermobaric projectiles and bombs are even more destructive, but they are not prohibited.