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With Little Ammo Left To Give, The U.S. Goes Edgy And Relents On Cluster Munitions

By tom On Friday, July 07 th, 2023 · no Comments · In And more news stories ,News stories ,Writing

By Tom Squitieri
Red Snow News
WASHINGTON — Civilian loath them and the military loves them for the same reasons : cluster bombs are incredibly deadly and efficient.
And now the U.S is poised to provide cluster munitions to Ukraine — even though, according to some, that could be in violation of U.S law. They would be part of a $800 million military aid package that is to be announced Friday afternoon.
President Biden is expected to approve sending the weapons, which are banned by many nations, today. Ukrainian forces are struggling to break through Russia’s front lines during their counteroffensive and officials believe providing the munitions will give Kyiv an edge.
Or as many maintain, play catch up.
Cluster munitions are air-dropped or ground-launched weapons that release a number of smaller submunitions intended to kill enemy personnel or destroy vehicles — and they do that well. In this cases, they will be in the form of artillery shells that can be fired from the 155 mm howitzers the United States has already provided Ukraine.
The M864 artillery shells contain 72 submunitions, or “bomblets,” roughly the size of grenades, and instead of having a single impact point, they can blanket an area larger than four football fields. The cluster munitions are called DPICMs for “dual-purpose improved conventional munitions/“
“I think what DPICMs bring to a battlefield is anti-armor and anti-personnel capability,” Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder told reporters Thursday . “So, essentially, it can be either loaded with shape charges, which are armor-penetrating, or they can be loaded with fragmentary munitions, which are anti-personnel — so clearly a capability that would be useful in any type of offensive operations.”
Cluster munitions have been criticized internationally for causing a significant number of civilian deaths, and efforts have been undertaken to ban and regulate their use.
The major threat to civilians comes when the munitions fail to initially explode ad linger. This is dubbed the “dud rate” — and the higher the dud rate, the more dangerous they can become.
Ryder told reporters that there are multiple versions of cluster munitions in U.S. arsenals and that the ones eyed for Ukraine would not be older versions with higher dud rates. “The ones that we are considering providing would not include older variants with rates that are higher than 2.35 percent” he said.
He insisted that for any sent to Ukraine “we would be carefully selecting rounds with lower dud rates for which we have recent testing data” from 2020. None of those had a dud rate better than 2 percent.
But that would leave the U.S. in technical violation of severe U.S. laws, including the Consolidated Appropriation Acts of 2010 and 2019, prevent the Defense Department from transferring or selling cluster munitions to any nation if the dud rate is above 1 percent. “No military assistance may be furnished for cluster munitions, no defense export license for cluster munitions may be issued, and no cluster munitions or cluster munitions technology may be sold or transferred, unless specified conditions are met.”
Cluster munitions have killed an estimated 56,500 to 86,500 civilians around the world — in recent years, a majority of them children. Cluster munitions are prohibited under an international treaty which has been joined by 123 countries. The United States, which left millions of cluster munitions behind in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, is not among them, and maintains a large stockpile of the weapons, though it has barely used them in decades.
Ukraine and Russia are also not members of the treaty, and cluster munitions have already been used extensively in this war, mainly by the Russians. According to the NGO Cluster Munitions Monitor, at least 689 Ukrainians were killed or wounded by Russian cluster munitions in the first half of 2022 alone.
There appear to be significant discrepancies among failure rate estimates. Some manufacturers claim a submunition failure rate of 2% to 5%, whereas mine clearance specialists have frequently reported failure rates of 10% to 30%.
A number of factors influence submunition reliability. These include delivery technique, age of the submunition, air temperature, landing in soft or muddy ground, getting caught in trees and vegetation, and submunitions being damaged after dispersal, or landing in such a manner that their impact fuzes fail to initiate.
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