Do we still need cluster bombs?

Britain 'broke law with Kosovo cluster bombs'

By Fran Abrams, Westminster Correspondent

8 August 2000

Britain's use of cluster bombs, which have killed more than 200 people since the end of the war in Kosovo, breached international law, says an anti-landmines organisation.

Although the weapons, which often leave unexploded "bomblets" lying around, do not breach the United Nations' ban on landmines, their use is indiscriminate and therefore illegal, the UK Working Group on Landmines says.

The umbrella group of 55 organisations says the Geneva Convention bans weapons that cause "superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering", and those not directed at a specific military target.

Because the 147 bomblets contained in a cluster bomb are scattered over a wide area and are often found some distance from their target, their use is indiscriminate, the group says. They cause unnecessary suffering because between 9 per cent and 30 per cent fail to explode immediately and so cause a danger to civilians.

Two British Gurkhas were killed by cluster-bombs during the clean-up operation after the Kosovo war, as were many local people.

A 13-year-old boy in Pristina Hospital, recovering after both legs were amputated, told researchers how he and his friends had picked up one of the bright yellow bombs, the size of a fizzy drinks can. "We began talking about taking the bomb to play with and then I just put it somewhere and it exploded," he said. "The boy near me died and I was thrown a metre in the air. The boy who died was 14 – he had his head cut off."

Other parts of the world are still suffering from late cluster-bomb detonations. In Laos, where the US dropped the equivalent of a planeload of bombs every eight minutes for nine years during the Vietnam War, 500,000 tonnes of unexploded ordnance remain nearly 30 years later.

Richard Lloyd, director of the UK Working Group on Landmines, said there was plenty of evidence before the Kosovo conflict, particularly from the Gulf War, that the bombs were likely to be blown off course when dropped from high altitudes.

"Not only is there a strong chance that such bombs will fail to explode but, as there is no way of distinguishing between soldiers and civilians, such use is indiscriminate and in clear breach of international humanitarian law," he said.

The Ministry of Defence argued that cluster bombs were not covered by the Ottawa Convention against landmines because they are designed to detonate on impact. Their use was not specifically proscribed under any weapons convention, a spokesman said.

Do you think we still need them?
What could we replace them with?
Who should pay for the clean up?

KZ

Original post

Member for

19 years 11 months

Posts: 724

RE: Do we still need cluster bombs?

It is a typical reactionary media headline grabbing tactic. The UK, nor any other nation that used cluster munitions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, did not breached the Ottawa Treaty by its use of the BL755 or RBL755s. No mention is made of the Yugoslav Air Force and its air strikes against KLA positions with their own BL755s bought from the UK. 755s are being replaced in the RAF inventory with Brimstone. For example Harriers GR7s will be upgraded and be able to deliver Maverick and Brimstone. Plans are in hand for a GR7 upgrade to GR9 standard. (The designation “8” is already in use with the T8). Yes, I agree it is a nasty weapon and the consequences of the bomblet detonation failures expose non-combatants to the dangers long after the weapon is dropped, but no law was broken by there use. Nations such as the Russia, China and US have not even signed or ratified the Ottawa Treaty and will not do so as anti-personnel landmines and anti-personnel bomblet dispensing weapons in their inventories are deemed essential.

RE: Do we still need cluster bombs?

I remember reading recently that the use of the 'Brimstone' in future conflict will be limited as it has an autonomous attack capabilty which would increase the risk of these things hitting non-military targets (such as tractors), so it does not come as a complete replacement for CBUs. I agree that they are not-illegal as they would have been specifically mentioned in the Ottawa Convention, which I believe was cunningly crafted to get around the CBU issue. The UK Gov. says it got rid of the JP233 in accordance with the Convention, but the reality is that with the Tornado losses in the Gulf War and the increased leathality of air-defences avaliable for export, make the JP233s are obsolete.

Maybe what is needed is an agreement on how and where they are deployed. What is certain is that this is one of those issues that will not go away.

Linkos:

http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/dumb/cbu-87.htm
http://www.mcc.org/misc/drop-today.html
http://www.mcc.org/misc/CBinYugo.html

KZ

Member for

19 years 11 months

Posts: 724

RE: Do we still need cluster bombs?

Not one Tornado was lost while deploying the JP233. Tornado GR.1,serial ZA392, was hit some three minutes later on egress from the target. All other RAF Tornado losses were non JP233 related. USAF F-111E's also deployed Durandal against airfield targets at low-level.

Member for

19 years 11 months

Posts: 77

RE: Do we still need cluster bombs?

CBU's will be with us for a while. They're an effective and relatively cheap area weapon. The US has addressed the problem of wind-induced drift by introducing the Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser. This is basically the CBU-87/-89/-97 series weapons with a tail modification kit. This changes them to the CBU-103/-104/-105 weapons and promises greater battlefield effectiveness.

RE: Do we still need cluster bombs?

TJ,
I agree but this is also linked with the RAFs obsessive stance on low-level attacks which use of the JP-233 necessitated. If I remember correctly, what brought down the Peeters/Nicholson Tornado was that an AAA shell grazed the rocket motor of one of the sidewinders which then proceeded to ignite and burn its way through the wing. As for the F-111 Durandal strikes, were they before or after the Tornadoes and SEAD strikes (and how many were there?)?

KZ

RE: Do we still need cluster bombs?

KZ, the Peters Tornado was on a low level daylight 1000lb bomb attack, not a JP-223 attack. I think TJ is right on this score, namely that only one Tornado was hit on a JP-233 strike. I know one Torando was destroyed by its own bombs, one was hit by an SA-2 when it could not be warned because of the radios being saturated and Peters Tornado was hit by an IR SAM or AAA which ignited the AIM-9 propellant. I'd have to look up the causes of the rest of the losses. Interestingly, in his book Pablo Mason says that he believed that two of the Tornado's flew into the ground as their crews tried to avoid AAA by flying as low as possible. Does anyone know that this is in/correct?

RE: Do we still need cluster bombs?

Patrick,
Ta for the info. It just goes to show how the lame-stream media gets the wrong end of the stick regarding military matters. Regarding flying into the ground, does anyone have any info on Allied craft crashing because their terrain following radar could not 'see' sand-dunes (aparently they were not supposed to be flying so low).

Regs,

KZ

RE: Do we still need cluster bombs?

Does anyone reading this seriuosly belive that in time of national crisis that British/NATO forces wouldnt use land mines , the guy that thinks this is on dope. Mines are the perfect soldiers , efficent with no logistical rtequirements. Any way the MOD only had to pledge that the mines would be with drawn and not the whole JP-233 system. With the current trend towards towards medium to high level precision bombing and the undiccsued avaibility of CIS laser and GPS jamming systems, I can for see when NATO will be forced to revert to cold war low level attacks on enemy armour and airfields, this will like the RAFs recconisance problems leave it without a purpose designed anti-armour weapon.
Alsa I here you cry what about Brimstone, Brimstone may be a fine anti armour system but with harriers and Typhoons slated to expend twelve to sixteen per sortie and the seemingly small numbers to be procurred theses will not last long even in a Kosovo.
I would like to ask any of the readers if they wish to if they wish to set up an air force for a develoved Scotland , with a budget of five and a half million pounds. They are to provide reasons why they purchase perticular aircraft. Hope to here from you soon . If you want Snail Mil me at
14 Farquhar Square
Blackridge
EH48 3RW
West Lothain
Scotland