Cluster Bombs

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Cluster Bombs are a type of military weapon primarily used because of its effectiveness against tanks and large areas. All cluster weapons consist of two primary elements: a container or dispenser; and sub munitions, often called bomblets. These bombs can be dropped from medium to high altitude.[1] Although cluster bombs can cover large areas they do not have the procession guidance that other bombs have, this is why cluster bombs are known as "dumb bombs". Although cluster bombs have some drawbacks, military officials state that they are necessary and needed. [2].


In May of 1974, the United States Air Force awarded a contract to Aeroget for the design, development, fabrication, and test of what became know as a Combined Effects Munitions (or cluster bomblet). The United States awarded a second contract to Honeywell, Inc, which later spun off into Alliant, in 1984. These two providers were the sole providers of cluster munitions to for the United States Military. [3]

Gulf War

The first major use of cluster bombs by the United States was the first war with Iraq, Operation Desert Storm. In this operation the United States dropped 1,100 cluster bombs munitions. [4]Most of these were CBU-87S, a bomb which is designed to destroy light armor vehicles and enemy soldiers. The bombs had an approximately five percent dud rate[5] </ref>. Leaving 1.2 million cluster bomblets left, critics estimated that they killed nearly one thousand six hundred Kuwaiti and Iraqi civilians. [6]


In NATO's air assault of Kosovo, NATO allies used more then 1,765 cluster bombs.[7]The U.N. Mine Action Coordination Center reported that these bombs had an estimated seven percent due rate, which they estimated as 20,000 bomblets left after the war. Human Rights organization like Human Rights Watched, claimed that these bombs led to over, “150 civilian deaths, or 18 to 30 percent of all civilian deaths.”[8]


Despite criticism the United States continued use of cluster weapons in Afghanistan, although their use was less in number then previous operations. Critics claimed that the United States was not doing enough to work on a solution to the dud rate. This time organizations estimated that the United States left 12,400 explosive duds in its efforts to defeat the Taliban.[9] It is estimated that the total amount of yellow soda-can sized, yellow-colored deadly sub-munitions was 48,884 [10]. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers, stated during the Afghanistan mission that, "We only use the cluster munitions when they are the most effective weapon for the intended target," Myers said. "There have not been a great number of them used, but they have been used [11].


Amid criticism the United States continued work on improving the cluster munitions to reduce the dud rate. The United States military began to improve its weapons for its new operation in Iraq. The United States used nearly 10,800 cluster weapons; their British allies used almost 2,200.[12] This time the improvements showed, as the new bombs only had a one percent dud rate. The Department of Defense described cluster bombs a vital and versatile, but admitted that they are aware of there flaws. In 2007 the Pentagon adopted the Cohan policy, which requires the military to purchase only cluster munitions that have a one percent dud rate or less.[13]