The controversial cluster bombs Biden is sending to Ukraine
The US has decided to send controversial cluster munitions to Ukraine in support of its counter-offensive against Russian forces.
The decision comes despite the US currently banning the production of this type of weapon and a former White House press secretary calling Russia’s use of the weapons a “war crime.”
The grenade-spewing bombs have a 6 percent “dud” rate, meaning they can remain unexploded for years after use, killing and maiming civilians.
Injuries from cluster bombs include loss of limbs, hands and feet, as well as severe damage to internal organs and eye injuries are common.
Russia used the weapons in populated areas during its invasion of Ukraine, killing civilians.
Ukraine also reportedly used the munitions, but much less extensively, in their attempts to recapture Russian-held territory.
The US has decided to send controversial cluster munitions to Ukraine in support of the counter-offensive against Russian forces
What kind of cluster bombs is Biden sending?
The main weapon likely to be shipped is an M864 artillery shell, first produced in 1987, and no new ones have been made for years.
They can be fired by aircraft, missiles and artillery, but are likely to be used by 155mm howitzers, which Ukraine has been sent by the United States and other Western countries.
Howitzers fire this exploding ordnance over an area of about 22,500 square meters, about the size of 4½ football fields.
How do they work?
Cluster bombs explode in mid-air over a target, firing smaller ‘bombs’ over a wide area, making them useful against minefields.
The ‘bombs’ are designed to explode as soon as they hit the ground and anyone in the area is likely to be killed or seriously injured.
Howitzers fire this exploding ordnance over an area of about 22,500 square meters, about the size of 4½ football fields
Why are they so controversial?
The grenades are controversial as they have a ‘dud’ rate of about 6 percentmeaning at least four of each of the 72 submunitions each grenade dispels would remain unexploded.
However, the International Committee of the Red Cross estimates that up to 40 percent of bombs failed to explode in some recent conflicts.
Dud ‘bomblets’ pose a significant threat of serious injury to soldiers and civilians, possibly even decades after they have been used in conflict.
Sixty percent of cluster bomb victims are people injured during everyday activities, and one-third of all recorded cluster munitions victims are children, according to Reuters.
The production, transfer and use of these infamous weapons have been banned by 120 countries.
Since the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, 99% of global stockpiles have been destroyed, according to the Cluster Munitions Coalition.
Yet about 4.7 million cluster grenades, rockets, missiles and bombs, containing more than 500 million “bombs,” are still in U.S. military inventories, according to Human Rights Watch estimates based on Defense Department reports.
The cluster munitions the United States is considering sending to Ukraine are more than 20 years old, spread over a wide area, and have a notoriously high failure rate, meaning they can remain lethal for years to come.” a report from Human Rights Watch said.
Cluster bombs explode in mid-air over a target, firing smaller ‘bombs’ over a wide area
Why are they shipped?
Kiev has asked for cluster bombs to support its counter-offensive against Russia.
It has argued that the weapons would enable its troops to overcome their manpower and artillery deficits, and target entrenched Russian positions.
Washington has previously resisted calls for the ammunition, but has recently changed position, with a Pentagon official last month stating that the US military believes cluster munitions would be “useful, especially against entrenched Russian positions.” The Guardian reported.
The change stems from concerns about Ukraine’s lagging counter-offensive and dwindling supplies of conventional artillery in Western stockpiles.
The Pentagon says the latest assessments of the bombs show failure rates closer to 2.35 percent and officials are “carefully” selecting ammunition to transfer to Kiev.