Difference between revisions of "Cluster munition"

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A '''cluster munition''' is a military weapon, such as a [[artillery|artillery shell]], [[unguided rocket]] or [[guided missile]] warhead, or a [[gravity bomb]], which releases [[submunitions]] that actually cause the desired weapon's effects. The munition may be delivered using [[precision-guided munition]]s technology, or may be a "dumb" ballistic projectile. Some submunitions are [[antipersonnel]], designed to injure or kill people, or are "dual-purpose" and thus able to damage light construction or vehicles, and also hurt or kill people.  
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A '''cluster munition''' is a military weapon, such as a [[artillery|artillery shell]], [[unguided rocket]] or [[guided missile]] warhead, or a [[gravity bomb]], which carries and releases '''cluster submunition'''s that actually cause the desired weapon's effects. The carrrier munition may be delivered using [[precision-guided munition]]s technology, or may be a "dumb" ballistic projectile; it may be a [[guided missile]] or [[unmanned aerial vehicle]] capable of flying to, and attacking, several locations.  
  
Antipersonnel and dual purpose submunitions were not intended to remain active and thus become [[minefield]]s, but existing technology is insufficient to ensure all submunitions either explode immediately, which is the intended effect, or to render themselves harmless. There has been considerable international pressure generically directed at cluster munitions, but really at those that dispense antipersonnel or dual purpose submunitions. These two classes, if they are dispensed in populated areas, form antipersonnel minefields that result in unacceptable civilian casualties.
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Some submunitions are [[Antipersonnel cluster submunition|antipersonnel]], designed to injure or kill people, or are "dual-purpose" and thus able to damage light construction or vehicles, and also hurt or kill people. These are the types of greatest humanitarian concern.
  
Not all types of submunitions are intended to injure people. Some emit thin carbon filaments, intended to short out power lines and temporarily cause blackouts. Others carry munitions that are landmines, but that can be detonated only by the weight of a [[tank]] or other military [[armored vehicle]]. Some could be electronic jammers.
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Other submunition types are not a significant threat to individual people. They may be lethal threats to tanks and other large armored vehicles, but will only detonate when they sense specific characteristics of such a massive object.
  
Yet other submunitions are independently guided to attack tanks, and have little danger to personnel not on the tank.  
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Yet other types are not intended to do permanent damage of any type. They may conduct [[electronic warfare]] for a short period of time, or be designed to disable electrical power transmission lines without destroying the power plants or substations.
  
From a pure military standpoint, antipersonnel, dual purpose, and antitank cluster submunitions spread out over a larger area than would the effect of a conventional bomb, shell, or warhead, so that excessive explosive force is not "wasted" in a small area. Especially the antitank submunitions have done away with perceived need for tactical [[nuclear weapon]]s to stop large tank formations. There is the question, of course, of how common large tank formations may be.
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==Carrier munition==
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There are a variety of carrying munitions for cluster submunitions. The simplest are bombs or shells that burst open, and, using motors, springs, or small explosive charges, scatter them in circular or ovoid patterns.
  
The purpose conceived as legitimate for using antipersonnel cluster munitions is to attack a spread-out group of soldiers and lightly protected equipment, as might be found with an infantry unit, at an air defense or artillery position, or a supply dump. If it could be assured that the submunitions could either immediately detonate or render themselves safe, these might be considered militarily appropriate, but there is little trust that the "dud" unexploded but hazardous submunition problem will be completely solved in the near term.  
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At the next level of delivery sophistication are bombs and missile warheads that can release the bomblets in batches. Such a weapon could follow a road, runway, or trench and disperse the submunitions in an efficient linear pattern.
  
Many nations have, for this reason, taken potential antipersonnel submunitions out of their ammunition stockpiles, and others are seeking treaties to ban them. Even if a completely reliable fail-safe mechanism were demonstrated today, that would not account for weapons already in stockpiles. It is simply not certain, however, if the replacements might have even worse unexpected consequences.
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Even more sophisticated dispensers can maneuver, and deliver submunitions to multiple targets. They may be able to transmit damage assessments, and be commanded to reattack, or be completely reprogrammed to fly to a target not known at the time the carrier was launched.
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==Submunitions==
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From a pure military standpoint, antipersonnel, dual purpose, and antitank cluster submunitions spread out over a larger area than would the effect of a conventional bomb, shell, or warhead, so that excessive explosive force is not "wasted" in a small area. For certain dispersed targets, such as a group of artillery pieces, it may not be practical to use precision guided weapons against the cannons themselves, which are made of very strong metal. If submunitions kill the crew or set off the ammunition, the cannon is neutralized. Bluntly, for other types of targets, such as a military headquarters, the only effect desired is kiling skilled personnel.
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Antipersonnel and dual purpose submunitions were not intended to remain active and thus become [[minefield]]s, but existing technology is insufficient to ensure all submunitions either explode immediately, which is the intended effect, or to render themselves harmless. There has been considerable international pressure generically directed at cluster munitions, but really at those that dispense [[antipersonnel cluster submunition|antipersonnel or dual purpose submunitions]]. These two classes, if they are dispensed in populated areas, form antipersonnel minefields that result in unacceptable civilian casualties.
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Not all types of submunitions are intended to injure people. Some emit thin carbon filaments, intended to short out power lines and temporarily cause blackouts.  Some could be electronic jammers.
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Various [[antitank cluster submunition|antitank submunitions]] are independently guided to attack tanks, and present little danger to personnel not on the tank. There are antitank submunitions that are intended to create temporary minefields, which are not considered significant risks because they will not detonate if stepped upon or handled; the weight or magnetic field of a tank is required to set them off.

Latest revision as of 19:30, 1 November 2008

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A cluster munition is a military weapon, such as a artillery shell, unguided rocket or guided missile warhead, or a gravity bomb, which carries and releases cluster submunitions that actually cause the desired weapon's effects. The carrrier munition may be delivered using precision-guided munitions technology, or may be a "dumb" ballistic projectile; it may be a guided missile or unmanned aerial vehicle capable of flying to, and attacking, several locations.

Some submunitions are antipersonnel, designed to injure or kill people, or are "dual-purpose" and thus able to damage light construction or vehicles, and also hurt or kill people. These are the types of greatest humanitarian concern.

Other submunition types are not a significant threat to individual people. They may be lethal threats to tanks and other large armored vehicles, but will only detonate when they sense specific characteristics of such a massive object.

Yet other types are not intended to do permanent damage of any type. They may conduct electronic warfare for a short period of time, or be designed to disable electrical power transmission lines without destroying the power plants or substations.

Carrier munition

There are a variety of carrying munitions for cluster submunitions. The simplest are bombs or shells that burst open, and, using motors, springs, or small explosive charges, scatter them in circular or ovoid patterns.

At the next level of delivery sophistication are bombs and missile warheads that can release the bomblets in batches. Such a weapon could follow a road, runway, or trench and disperse the submunitions in an efficient linear pattern.

Even more sophisticated dispensers can maneuver, and deliver submunitions to multiple targets. They may be able to transmit damage assessments, and be commanded to reattack, or be completely reprogrammed to fly to a target not known at the time the carrier was launched.

Submunitions

From a pure military standpoint, antipersonnel, dual purpose, and antitank cluster submunitions spread out over a larger area than would the effect of a conventional bomb, shell, or warhead, so that excessive explosive force is not "wasted" in a small area. For certain dispersed targets, such as a group of artillery pieces, it may not be practical to use precision guided weapons against the cannons themselves, which are made of very strong metal. If submunitions kill the crew or set off the ammunition, the cannon is neutralized. Bluntly, for other types of targets, such as a military headquarters, the only effect desired is kiling skilled personnel.

Antipersonnel and dual purpose submunitions were not intended to remain active and thus become minefields, but existing technology is insufficient to ensure all submunitions either explode immediately, which is the intended effect, or to render themselves harmless. There has been considerable international pressure generically directed at cluster munitions, but really at those that dispense antipersonnel or dual purpose submunitions. These two classes, if they are dispensed in populated areas, form antipersonnel minefields that result in unacceptable civilian casualties.

Not all types of submunitions are intended to injure people. Some emit thin carbon filaments, intended to short out power lines and temporarily cause blackouts. Some could be electronic jammers.

Various antitank submunitions are independently guided to attack tanks, and present little danger to personnel not on the tank. There are antitank submunitions that are intended to create temporary minefields, which are not considered significant risks because they will not detonate if stepped upon or handled; the weight or magnetic field of a tank is required to set them off.