Operational and technical aspects of cluster munitions
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13-10-2010, 01:06 PM



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Operational and technical aspects of cluster munitions

Mark HIZNAY

Many military establishments believe that cluster munitions increase the efficiency of suppressing, killing or destroying multiple targets within an area and they remain a key military equity. First used in the Second World War and used in 21 states since then, their technology has evolved and they are today perceived as a significant component in the self-defense capability of many states. However, cluster munitions have also demonstrated several limitations and liabilities, which can affect, and hinder, operations. When cluster munitions have been used in populated areas, civilians have died, either as a direct result of the attack and its area effect or as a result of post-attack unexploded ordnance (UXO). While all types of explosive ordnance fail to function at some rate, the failure rates for cluster munitions are distinct as they are so high; they are increasingly documented, and are now accounted for in the planning of military operations. Many types of cluster munitions were not designed to reduce or minimize UXO, as the weapons were not intended to be used in areas to which users would be returning: it was not until the Gulf War, that the requirement for military forces to conduct operations in areas containing their own UXO was widely recognized. It took even longer to establish UXO minimization as a requirement in cluster-munitions development.1 Today, the perceived need for cluster munitions is diminishing—but has not been eliminated—with the evolution of tactics, techniques and procedures for the use of other munitions. Advances in sensor and guidance technologies that transform unitary munitions into guided weapons are creating one alternative to the earlier-generation cluster munitions. Some states have removed problematic types of cluster munitions from service due to age or reliability concerns. But there is no military or legal requirement to dispose of these cluster munitions until the end of their extended shelf-life: large quantities of cluster munitions with known accuracy problems or high failure rates remain in global stockpiles. Types and utility of cluster munitions Cluster munitions are weapons that open in mid-air and scatter sub munitions, which usually number in the dozens or hundreds, into an area. Technical and functionally descriptive definitions of cluster munitions exist, but there is as yet no common legal understanding of the weapon among states. Germany introduced a draft definition of cluster munitions in talks within the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons
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