Military Wiki

SD2 Butterfly Bomb circa 1940. Wings rotate as bomb falls, unscrewing the arming spindle connected to the fuze

Unexploded cluster sub-munition, probably a BLU-26 type. Plain of Jars, Laos

A cluster munition is a form of air-dropped or ground-launched explosive weapon that releases or ejects smaller submunitions. Commonly, this is a cluster bomb that ejects explosive bomblets that are designed to kill personnel and destroy vehicles. Other cluster munitions are designed to destroy runways or electric power transmission lines, disperse chemical or biological weapons, or to scatter land mines. Some submunition-based weapons can disperse non-munitions, such as leaflets.

Because cluster bombs release many small bomblets over a wide area they pose risks to civilians both during attacks and afterwards. During attacks, the weapons are prone to indiscriminate effects, especially in populated areas. Unexploded bomblets can kill or maim civilians and/or unintended targets long after a conflict has ended, and are costly to locate and remove.

Cluster munitions are prohibited for those nations that ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions, adopted in Dublin, Ireland in May 2008. The Convention entered into force and became binding international law upon ratifying states on 1 August 2010, six months after being ratified by 30 states;[1] currently, a total of 112 states had signed the Convention and 83 of those have ratified it.[2][3]


The first[citation needed] cluster bomb used operationally was the German SD-2 or Sprengbombe Dickwandig 2 kg, commonly referred to as the Butterfly Bomb. It was used in World War II to attack both civilian and military targets. The technology was developed independently by the United States of America, Russia and Italy (see Thermos Bomb). The US used the 20-lb M41 fragmentation bomb wired together in clusters of 6 or 25 with highly sensitive or proximity fuzes.

From the 1970s to the 1990s cluster bombs became standard air-dropped munitions for many nations, in a wide variety of types. They have been produced by 34 countries and used in at least 23.[4]

Artillery shells that employ similar principles have existed for decades. They are typically referred to as ICM (Improved Conventional Munitions) shells. The US military slang terms for them are "firecracker" or "popcorn" shells, for the many small explosions they cause in the target area.


A basic cluster bomb consists of a hollow shell and then two to more than 2,000 submunitions or bomblets contained within it. Some types are dispensers that are designed to be retained by the aircraft after releasing their munitions. The submunitions themselves may be fitted with small parachute retarders or streamers to slow their descent (allowing the aircraft to escape the blast area in low-altitude attacks).[citation needed]

A US Vietnam era BLU-3 cluster bomblet

Modern cluster bombs and submunition dispensers are often multiple-purpose weapons, containing mixtures of anti-armor, anti-personnel, and anti-materiel munitions. The submunitions themselves may also be multi-purpose, such as combining a shaped charge, to attack armour, with a fragmenting case, to attack infantry, material, and light vehicles. Modern multipurpose munitions may also have an incendiary effect.

Recently submunition-based weapons have been designed that deploy smart submunitions, using thermal and visual sensors to locate and attack particular targets, usually armored vehicles. Weapons of this type include the US CBU-97 sensor-fuzed weapon, first used in combat during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Munitions specifically intended for anti-tank use may be set to self-destruct if they reach the ground without locating a target, theoretically reducing the risk of unintended civilian deaths and injuries. Although smart submunition weapons are many times more expensive than standard cluster bombs, which are cheaper and simpler to manufacture, far fewer smart submunitions are required for defeating dispersed and mobile targets in an area, offsetting this cost. On the basis that they should not cause the indiscriminate area effects or unexploded ordnance risks of cluster munitions, these submunitions are not classified as cluster munitions under the definition of the weapon enshrined in international law by the Convention on Cluster Munitions.[citation needed]


Incendiary cluster bombs are intended to start fires, just as conventional incendiary bombs (also called firebombs). They are specifically designed for this purpose, with submunitions of white phosphorus or napalm, and they often include anti-personnel and anti-tank submunitions to hamper firefighting efforts.[citation needed] When used in cities they have often been preceded by the use of conventional explosive bombs to break open the roofs and walls of buildings to expose flammable contents to the incendiaries. One of the earliest examples is the so-called Molotov bread basket first used by the Soviet Union in the Winter War of 1939-40. This type of munition was extensively used by both sides in the strategic bombings of World War II. Bombs of this type were used to start firestorms in cases such as the bombing of Dresden in World War II and the firebombing of Tokyo. In some modern bombs, submunitions are used to deliver a highly combustible thermobaric aerosol, which is subsequently ignited, resulting in a high pressure explosion.[citation needed]

During the Winter War of 1939–1940, the Soviet Union dropped Molotov bread baskets, which scattered incendiary bomblets, on Finland.


Anti-personnel cluster bombs use explosive fragmentation to kill troops and destroy soft (unarmored) targets. Along with incendiary cluster bombs, these were among the first forms of cluster bombs produced by Germany during World War II. They were famously used during the Blitz with delay and booby-trap fusing to hamper firefighting and other damage-control efforts in the bombed areas. They were also used with a contact fuze when attacking entrenchments. These weapons were most widely used during the Vietnam War when many thousands of tons of submunitions were dropped on Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.[5]


Most anti-armor munitions contain shaped charge warheads to pierce the armor of tanks and armored fighting vehicles. In some cases, guidance is used to increase the likelihood of successfully hitting a vehicle. Modern guided submunitions, such as those found in the U.S. CBU-97, can use either a shaped charge or an explosively formed penetrator. Unguided shaped-charge submunitions are designed to be effective against entrenchments that incorporate overhead cover. To simplify supply and increase battlefield effectiveness by allowing a single type of round to be used against nearly any target, submunitions that incorporate both fragmentation and shaped-charge effects are produced.[citation needed]


Modern Israeli anti-runway cluster bomb

Anti-runway submunitions such as the British JP233 are designed to penetrate concrete before detonating, allowing them to shatter and crater runway surfaces. In the case of the JP233, the cratering effect is achieved through the use of a two-stage warhead that combines a shaped charge and a conventional bulk explosive charge. The shaped charge penetrates the surface of the runway while the bulk explosive charge detonates under the surface which makes the crater bigger. This explosion also shatters the surface, this effect combined with the anti-personnel mines which may be deployed in addition to the Anti-runway can make repairs more difficult.[citation needed]


When submunition-based weapons are used to disperse mines, their submunitions do not detonate immediately, but behave like conventional land mines that detonate later. The submunitions usually include a combination of anti-personnel and anti-tank mines. Since such mines usually lie on exposed surfaces, the anti-personnel forms, such as the US Area Denial Artillery Munition normally deploy tripwires automatically after landing to make clearing the minefield more difficult. In order to avoid rendering large portions of the battlefield permanently impassable, and to minimize the amount of mine-clearing needed after a conflict, scatterable mines used by the United States are designed to self-destruct after a period of time from 4 to 48 hours. The internationally agreed definition of cluster munitions being negotiated in the Oslo Process may not include this type of weapon, since landmines are already covered in other specific international instruments.

Chemical weapons

U.S. Honest John missile warhead cutaway, showing M134 Sarin bomblets (photo circa 1960)

During the 1950s and 1960s, the United States and Soviet Union developed cluster weapons designed to deliver chemical weapons. The Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993 banned their use. Six nations declared themselves in possession of chemical weapons. The US and Russia are in the process of destroying their stockpiles, although they have received extensions for the full destruction, not having completed the destruction of their Chemical Weapons stockpiles by 2007, as the Treaty had originally intended.


An anti-electrical weapon, the CBU-94/B, was first used by the U.S. in the Kosovo War in 1999. These consist of a TMD (Tactical Munitions Dispenser) filled with 202 BLU-114/B "Soft-Bomb" submunitions. Each submunition contains a small explosive charge that disperses 147 reels of fine conductive fiber of either carbon or aluminum-coated glass. Their purpose is to disrupt and damage electric power transmission systems by producing short circuits in high-voltage power lines and electrical substations. On the first attack, these knocked out 70% of the electrical power supply in Serbia. There are reports that it took 500 people 15 hours to get one transformer yard back on line after being hit with these weapons.[citation needed]

Leaflet dispensing

The LBU-30 is designed for dropping large quantities of propaganda leaflets from aircraft. Enclosing the leaflets within the bomblets ensures that the leaflets will fall on the intended area without being dispersed excessively by the wind. The LBU-30 consists of SUU-30 dispensers that have been adapted to leaflet dispersal. The dispensers are essentially recycled units from old bombs. The LBU-30 was tested at Eglin Air Force Base in 2000, by an F-16 flying at 20,000 feet (6,100 m).[6]

History of use

Vietnam War

During the Vietnam War, the US used cluster bombs in air strikes against targets in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.[7] According to The Guardian, of the 260 million cluster bomblets that rained down on Laos between 1964 and 1973, particularly on Xieng Khouang province, 80 million failed to explode.[8] The GlobalPost reports that as of 2014 about 7,000 people have been injured or killed by explosives left from the Vietnam War era in the Vietnamese Quang Tri Province alone.[9]

Nagorno Karabakh War

  • Hundreds of cluster bombs were used by Azerbaijan in Nagorno Karabakh in 1992-94 in the course of the Nagorno-Karabakh War. An estimated 180 cluster bombs were dropped on the city of Stepanakert. As of 2010, 93 km2 remain off-limits due to contamination with unexploded cluster ordnance. HALO Trust has made major contributions to the cleanup effort.,[10][11]

First Chechen War, 1995

Croatia, 1995

Yugoslavia, 1999

  • Used by the US, the UK and Netherlands.

About 2,000 cluster bombs containing 380,000 sub-munitions were dropped on Yugoslavia during the Operation Allied Force, in 1999, of which the Royal Air Force dropped 531 RBL755 cluster bombs.[13][14]

On 7 May 1999, between the time of 11:30 and 11:40, a NATO attack was carried out with two containers of cluster bombs directed at Niš Airport, located at the end of the city. The bombs missed their target and fell near the city center. The bombs were scattered from the two containers and were carried by the wind and then fell in three locations in the central part of the city:

  • The Pathology building next to the Medical Center of Nis in the south of the city,
  • Next to the building of "Banovina" including the main market, bus station next to the Niš Fortress and "12th February" Health Centre
  • Parking of "Niš Express" near river Nišava River.

Reports claimed that 15 civilians were killed, 8 civilians were seriously injured, 11 civilians had sustained minor injuries, 120 housing units were damaged and 47 were destroyed and that 15 cars were damaged.

Overall during the operation, at least 23 Serb civilians were killed by cluster munitions. At least six Serbs, including three children were killed by bomblets after the operation ended, and up to 23 square kilometres in six areas remain "cluster contaminated", according to Serbian government. The UK contributed £86,000 to the Serbian Mine Action Centre.[13]

Second Chechen War

  • Russia repeatedly fired cluster munitions into Chechnya.

Afghanistan, 2001 - 2002

  • United States and other NATO countries used large numbers of cluster munitions during the initial stage of the operation. 1,228 cluster bombs containing 248,056 bomblets were used by the allies.[15][16][17]


A US naval F/A-18C Hornet launches from USS Nimitz to a mission in Southern Iraq. Among other weapons, the plane carries CBU-100 "Rockeye" cluster bombs.

  • Used by the United States and the United Kingdom

1991: United States, France, and the United Kingdom dropped 61,000 cluster bombs, containing 20 million submunitions, on Iraq, according to the HRW.[18]

2003-2006: United States and allies attacked Iraq with 13,000 cluster munitions, containing two million submunitions during Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to the HRW.[19] At multiple times, coalition forces used cluster munitions in residential areas, and the country remains among the most contaminated by this day, bomblets posing a threat to both US military personnel in the area, and local civilians.[20]

When these weapons were fired on Baghdad on April 7, 2003 many of the bomblets failed to explode on impact. They were picked up or stumbled on by their victims. The Pentagon presented a misleading picture during the war of the extent to which cluster weapons were being used and of the civilian casualties they were causing. Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on April 25, six days before President Bush declared major combat operations over, that the United States had used 1,500 cluster weapons and caused one civilian casualty.[21]

Lebanon, 1978, 1982 and 2006

During the Israeli-Lebanese conflict in 1982, Israel used cluster munitions, many of them American-made, on targets in southern Lebanon. Israel also used cluster bombs in the 2006 Lebanon War.[22][23][24]

Two types of cluster munitions were transferred to Israel from the U.S. The first was the CBU-58 which uses the BLU-63 bomblet. This cluster bomb is no longer in production. The second was the MK-20 Rockeye, produced by Honeywell Incorporated in Minneapolis.[source?] The CBU-58 was used by Israel in Lebanon in both 1978 and 1982.[22] The Israeli Defense company Israel Military Industries also manufactures the more up-to-date M-85 cluster bomb.

Hezbollah fired Chinese-manufactured cluster munitions into Israel civilian targets, using 122-mm rocket launchers during the 2006 war, hitting Kiryat Motzkin, Nahariya, Karmiel, Maghar, and Safsufa. A total of 113 rockets and 4,407 submunitions were fired into Israel during the war.[25][25][26]

Israel dropped up to four million submunitions on Lebanese soil, one million of which remain unexploded “duds,” according to the United Nations Mine Action Service. Throughout the thirty-four-day conflict, the United States resupplied Israel’s arsenal of cluster bombs, which prompted an investigation by the State Department to examine if Israel had violated secret agreements it signed with the United States governing their use.[27]

"Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz plans to appoint a major general to investigate the use of cluster bombs — some of which were fired against his order — during the Lebanon war. Halutz ordered the IDF to use cluster bombs with extreme caution and not to fire them into populated areas. Nonetheless, it did so anyway, primarily using artillery batteries and the Multiple Launch System (MRLS). IDF artillery, MLRS and aircraft are thought to have delivered thousands of cluster bombs, containing a total of some 4 million bomblets during the war."[28][29]

Human Rights Watch said there was evidence that Israel had used cluster bombs very close to civilian areas and described them as "unacceptably inaccurate and unreliable weapons when used around civilians" and that "they should never be used in populated areas."[30] Human Rights Watch has accused Israel of using cluster munitions in an attack on Bilda, a Lebanese village, on 19 July[31] which killed 1 civilian and injured 12, including seven children. The Israeli "army defended ... the use of cluster munitions in its offensive with Lebanon, saying that using such munitions was 'legal under international law' and the army employed them 'in accordance with international standards.'"[32] Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mark Regev added, "[I]f NATO countries stock these weapons and have used them in recent conflicts — in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq — the world has no reason to point a finger at Israel."[33]

Georgia, 2008

Capital of South Ossetia, Tskhinval, was attacked by Georgian artillery with the use of cluster shells, according to Spiegel.[34]

Georgia admitted using cluster bombs during the war, according to Human Rights Watch.[35] The Georgian army used LAR-160 multiple rocket launchers to fire MK4 LAR 160 type rockets (with M-85 bomblets) with a range of 45 kilometers the Georgian Minister of Defense (MoD) said.[36]

According to the Human Rights Watch, the Russian Air Force used RBK-250 cluster bombs during the conflict.[37] A high-ranking Russian military official denied use of cluster bombs.[38] The Dutch government, after investigating the death of a Dutch citizen, concluded that a cluster munition was propelled by an 9K720 Iskander tactical missile (used by Russia at the time of conflict, and not used by Georgia).[39]

Libya, 2011

It was reported in April 2011 that Colonel Gaddafi's forces had used cluster bombs in the conflict between government forces and rebel forces trying to overthrow Gaddafi's government, during the battle of Misrata[40] These reports were denied by the government, and the Secretary of State of the USA,[41] Hillary Clinton said she was “not aware” of the specific use of cluster or other indiscriminate weapons in Misurata even though a New York Times investigation refuted those claims.[42] An ejection canister for a Type 314 A AV submunition, manufactured in France was found in Libya despite the fact that France is a party to the international convention that bans cluster munitions.[citation needed]

Syrian uprising

During the Syrian uprising, a few videos of cluster bombs first appeared in 2011, but escalated in frequency near the end of 2012.[43][44] As Human Rights Watch reported on October 13, 2012, "Eliot Higgins, who blogs on military hardware and tactics used in Syria under the pseudonym "Brown Moses", compiled a list of the videos showing cluster munition remnants in Syria's various governorates."[43][44] The type of bombs have been reported to be RBK-250 cluster bombs with AO-1 SCH bomblets (of Soviet design).[44] Designed by the Soviet Union for use on tank and troop formations, PTAB-2.5M bomblets were used on civilian targets in Mare' in December, 2012 by the Syrian government.[45]

Sri Lanka

Allegedly used by the Sri Lankan government during the Sri Lankan Civil War.[46][47][48][49]

Threat to civilians

Sergeant First Class Furl A. Krebs loads a munition with 22,500 Korean language leaflets in 1950 for use as psychological warfare during the Korean War

While all weapons are dangerous, cluster bombs pose a particular threat to civilians for two reasons: they have a wide area of effect, and they have consistently left behind a large number of unexploded bomblets. The unexploded bomblets can remain dangerous for decades after the end of a conflict.

Cluster munitions are opposed by many individuals and hundreds of groups, such as the Red Cross,[50] the Cluster Munition Coalition and the United Nations, because of the high number of civilians that have fallen victim to the weapon. Since February 2005, Handicap International called for cluster munitions to be prohibited and collected hundreds of thousands of signatures to support its call.[51] 98% of 13,306 recorded cluster munitions casualties that are registered with Handicap International are civilians, while 27% are children.[52]

The area affected by a single cluster munition, known as its footprint, can be very large; a single unguided M26 MLRS rocket can effectively cover an area of 0.23 km2.[53] In US and most allied services, the M26 has been replaced by the M30 guided missile fired from the MLRS. The M30 has greater range and accuracy but a smaller area of coverage. It is worth noting that for reasons including both danger to civilians and changing tactical requirements, the non-cluster unitary warhead XM31 missile is, in many cases, replacing even the M30.

Because of the weapon's broad area of effect, they have often been documented as striking both civilian and military objects in the target area. This characteristic of the weapon is particularly problematic for civilians when cluster munitions are used in or near populated areas and has been documented by research reports from groups such as Human Rights Watch,[54] Landmine Action, Mines Action Canada and Handicap International. In some cases, like the Zagreb rocket attack, civilians were deliberately targeted by such weapons.[55]

Unexploded ordnance

Half of a surface-to-air missile site in North Vietnam blanketed in exploding bomblets dispersed by a U.S. cluster munition, Vietnam War

The other serious problem, also common to explosive weapons is unexploded ordnance (UXO) of cluster bomblets left behind after a strike. These bomblets may be duds or in some cases the weapons are designed to detonate at a later stage. In both cases, the surviving bomblets are live and can explode when handled, making them a serious threat to civilians and military personnel entering the area. In effect, the UXOs can function like land mines.

Even though cluster bombs are designed to explode prior to or on impact, there are always some individual submunitions that do not explode on impact. The US-made MLRS with M26 warhead and M77 submunitions are supposed to have a 5% dud rate but studies have shown that some have a much higher rate.[56] The rate in acceptance tests prior to the Gulf War for this type ranged from 2% to a high of 23% for rockets cooled to −25 °F (−32 °C) before testing.[57] The M483A1 DPICM artillery-delivered cluster bombs have a reported dud rate of 14%.[58]

Given that each cluster bomb can contain hundreds of bomblets and be fired in volleys, even a small failure rate can lead each strike to leave behind hundreds or thousands of UXOs scattered randomly across the strike area. For example, after the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, UN experts have estimated that as many as one million unexploded bomblets may contaminate the hundreds of cluster munition strike sites in Lebanon.[59]

M77 submunition of type fired against Lebanon in 1986. Each MLRS rocket has 644 M77 packed in the warhead

In addition, some cluster bomblets, such as the BLU-97/B used in the CBU-87, are brightly colored to increase their visibility and warn off civilians. However, the yellow color, coupled with their small and nonthreatening appearance, is attractive to young children who wrongly believe them to be toys. This problem was exacerbated in the War in Afghanistan (2001–2021), when US forces dropped humanitarian rations from airplanes with similar yellow-colored packaging as the BLU-97/B, yellow being the NATO standard colour for high explosive filler in air weapons. The rations packaging was later changed first to blue and then to clear in the hope of avoiding such hazardous confusion.

The US military is developing new cluster bombs that it claims could have a much lower (less than 1%) dud rate.[60] Sensor-fused weapons that contain a limited number of submunitions that are capable of autonomously engaging armored targets may provide a viable, if costly, alternative to cluster munitions that will allow multiple target engagement with one shell or bomb while avoiding the civilian deaths and injuries consistently documented from the use of cluster munitions. Certain such weapons may be allowed under the recently adopted Convention on Cluster Munitions, provided they do not have the indiscriminate area effects or pose the unexploded ordnance risks of cluster munitions.

In the 1980s the Spanish firm Esperanza y Cia developed a 120mm caliber mortar bomb which contained 21 anti-armor submunitions. What made the 120mm "Espin" unique was the electrical impact fusing system which totally eliminated dangerous duds. The system operates on a capacitor in each submunition which charged by a wind generator in the nose of the projectile after being fired. If for what ever reason the electrical fuse fails to function on impact, approximately 5 minutes later the capacitor bleeds out, therefore neutralizing the submunition's electronic fuse system.[61] Later a similar mortar round was offered in the 81mm caliber and equipped some Spanish Marine units. But on signing the Wellington Declaration on Cluster Munitions, Spain withdrew both the 81mm and 120mm "Espin" rounds from its military units.

Civilian deaths from unexploded cluster bomblets

  • In Vietnam, people are still being killed as a result of cluster bombs and other objects left by the US and Vietnamese military forces. Estimates range up to 300 people killed annually by unexploded ordnance.[62]
  • Some 270 million cluster submunitions were dropped on Laos in the 1960s and 1970s; approximately one third of these submunitions failed to explode and continue to pose a threat today.[63]
  • During the 1999 NATO war against Yugoslavia U.S. and Britain dropped 1,400 cluster bombs in Kosovo. Within the first year after the end of the war more than 100 civilians died from unexploded British and American bombs. Unexploded cluster bomblets caused more civilian deaths than landmines.[64]
  • Israel used cluster bombs in Lebanon in 1978 and in the 1980s. Those weapons used more than two decades ago by Israel continue to affect Lebanon.[65] During the 2006 war in Lebanon, Israel fired large numbers of cluster bombs in Lebanon, containing an estimated more than 4 million cluster submunitions. In the first month following the ceasefire, unexploded cluster munitions killed or injured an average of 3-4 people per day.[66]

Areas with significant unexploded cluster bomb submunitions

Ban Advocates from Afghanistan and Ethiopia demonstrating outside of the Dublin conference

Countries that have been affected by cluster munitions include:

  • Iraq
  • Israel
  • Kuwait
  • Laos
  • Lebanon
  • Montenegro
  • Pakistan
  • Palestine
  • Russia (Chechnya)
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Serbia (mainly south Serbia and Kosovo)
  • Sierra Leone
  • South Ossetia
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Tajikistan
  • Vietnam
  • United Kingdom - Falkland Islands

International legislation

Erik Thorstvedt leads a Norwegian parade celebrating the effectuation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, July 31, 2010. (Photo: Norsk Folkehjelp)

Cluster bombs fall under the general rules of international humanitarian law, but were not specifically covered by any currently binding international legal instrument until the signature of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in December 2008. This international treaty stemmed from an initiative by the Government of Norway known as the Oslo Process which was launched in February 2007 to prohibit cluster munitions.[67] More than 100 countries agreed to the text of the resulting Convention on Cluster Munitions in May 2008 which sets out a comprehensive ban on these weapons. This treaty was signed by 94 states in Oslo on 3–4 December. The Oslo Process was launched largely in response to the failure of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) where five years of discussions failed to find an adequate response to these weapons.[68] The Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) is campaigning for the widespread accession to and ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

A number of sections of the Protocol on explosive remnants of war (Protocol V to the 1980 Convention), 28 November 2003 [69] occasionally address some of the problems associated with the use of cluster munitions, in particular Article 9, which mandates States Parties to "take generic preventive measures aimed at minimising the occurrence of explosive remnants of war". In June 2006, Belgium was the first country to issue a ban on the use (carrying), transportation, export, stockpiling, trade and production of cluster munitions,[70] and Austria followed suit on 2007-12-07.[4]

There has been parliamentary activity on cluster munitions in several countries, including Austria, Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States. In some of these countries, ongoing discussions concerning draft legislation banning cluster munitions, along the lines of the legislation adopted in Belgium and Austria will now turn to ratification of the global ban treaty. Norway and Ireland have national legislation prohibiting cluster munitions and were able to deposit their instruments of ratification to the Convention on Cluster Munitions immediately after signing it in Oslo on 3 December.

International treaties

Nations subscribing to the Wellington Declaration, which led to the Convention on Cluster Munitions

Other weapons, such as land mines, have been banned in many countries under specific legal instruments for several years, notably the Ottawa Treaty to ban land mines, and some of the Protocols in the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons that also help clearing the lands contaminated by left munitions after the end of conflicts and provides international assistance to the affected populations. However, until the recent adoption of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Dublin in May 2008 cluster bombs were not banned by any international treaty and were considered legitimate weapons by some governments.

To increase pressure for governments to come to an international treaty on November 13, 2003, the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) was established with the goal of addressing the impact of cluster munitions on civilians. At the launch, organised by Pax Christi Netherlands, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, the later Secretary General of NATO, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, addressed the crowd of gathered government, NGO, and press representatives.

International governmental deliberations in the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons turned on the broader problem of explosive remnants of war, a problem to which cluster munitions have contributed in a significant way. There were consistent calls from the Cluster Munition Coalition, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and a number of UN agencies, joined by approximately 30 governments, for international governmental negotiations to develop specific measures that would address the humanitarian problems cluster munitions pose. This did not prove possible in the conventional multilateral forum. After a reversal in the US position, in 2007 deliberations did begin on cluster munitions within the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. There was a concerted effort led by the US to develop a new protocol to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, but this proposal was rejected by over 50 states, together with civil society, ICRC and UN agencies.[71] The discussions ended with no result in November 2011, leaving the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions as the single international standard on the weapons.[72]

In February 2006, Belgium announced its decision to ban the weapon by law. Then Norway announced a national moratorium in June and Austria announced its decision in July to work for an international instrument on the weapon. The international controversy over the use and impact of cluster munitions during the war between Lebanon and Israel in July and August 2006 added weight to the global campaign for a ban treaty.[73]

Ugandan demonstrator at the May 2008 Dublin conference for the Convention on Cluster Munitions

Against this background, a new flexible multilateral process similar to the process that led to the ban on anti-personnel land mines in 1997 (the Ottawa Treaty) began with an announcement in November 2006[74] in Geneva as well at the same time by the Government of Norway that it would convene an international meeting in early 2007 in Oslo to work towards a new treaty prohibiting cluster munitions. 49 governments attended the meeting in Oslo February 22–23, 2007 in order to reaffirm their commitment to a new international ban on the weapon. During the meeting Austria announced an immediate moratorium on the use, production and transfer of cluster munitions until a new international treaty banning the weapons is in place.

A follow-up meeting in this process was held in Lima in May where around 70 states discussed the outline of a new treaty, Hungary became the latest country to announce a moratorium and Peru launched an initiative to make Latin America a cluster munition free zone.[75]

In addition, the ICRC held an experts meeting on cluster munitions in April 2007 which helped clarify technical, legal, military and humanitarian aspects of the weapon with a view to developing an international response.[76]

Further meetings took place in Vienna from 4–7 December 2007, and in Wellington from 18–22 February 2008 where a declaration in favor of negotiations on a draft convention was adopted by more than 80 countries. In May 2008 after around 120 countries had subscribed to the Wellington Declaration and participated in the Dublin Diplomatic Conference from 19 to 30 May 2008. At the end of this Conference, 107 countries agreed to adopt the Convention on Cluster Munitions, that bans cluster munitions and was opened for signature in Oslo on December 3–4, 2008 where it was signed by 94 countries.[77][78][79]

In July 2008, United States Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates implemented a policy to eliminate by 2018 all cluster bombs that do not meet new safety standards.[80]

In November 2008, ahead of the signing Conference in Oslo,[81] the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on all European Union governments to sign and ratify the Convention.[82]

On 16 February 2010 Burkina Faso became the 30th state to deposit its instrument of ratification for the Convention on Cluster Munitions. This means that the number of States required for the Convention to enter into force had been reached. The treaty's obligations became legally binding on the 30 ratifying States on 1 August 2010 and subsequently for other ratifying States.[83]

Convention on Cluster Munitions

Taking effect on August 1, 2010, the "Convention on Cluster Munitions"[84] bans the stockpiling, use and transfer of virtually all existing cluster bombs and provides for the clearing up of unexploded munitions. It had been signed by 108 countries, of which 38 had ratified it by the affected date, but many of the world's major military powers including the United States, Russia and China are not signatories to the treaty.[85][86][87][88]

Countries that have used cluster munitions

At least sixteen countries have used cluster munitions in recent history (since the creation of the United Nations). All of these nations still have stocks of these munitions.[89] Countries that have subscribed to the Wellington Declaration, agreeing in principle to ban cluster bombs, are listed in bold.

  •  Ethiopia
  •  Eritrea
  •  France
  •  Georgia
  •  Israel
  •  Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
  •  Morocco
  •  Netherlands
  •  Nigeria
  •  Russia
  •  Saudi Arabia
  • South Africa/ South Africa[90]

In addition, at least three countries that no longer exist (the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Serb Republic of Krajina[12] and Rhodesia) have used cluster bombs.

Countries that have produced cluster munitions

At least 30 nations have produced cluster munitions in recent history (since the creation of the United Nations). All of these nations still have stocks of these munitions.[89] Most (but not all) of them are involved in recent wars or long unsolved international conflicts; however most of them did not use the munitions they produced. Countries that have subscribed to the Wellington Declaration, agreeing in principle to ban cluster bombs, are listed in bold.

  •  Argentina
  •  Brazil
  •  Bulgaria
  •  Chile
  •  People's Republic of China
  •  Republic of China[91]
  •  Egypt
  •  France
  •  Germany
  •  Greece
  •  India
  •  Iran
  •  Iraq
  •  Israel
  •  Italy
  •  Japan
  •  North Korea
  •  South Korea
  •  Pakistan
  •  Poland
  •  Romania
  •  Russia
  •  Serbia
  •  Singapore
  •  Slovakia
  •  South Africa
  •  Spain
  •  Sweden
  •  Turkey
  •  United Kingdom
  • United States

Countries that have stocks of cluster munitions

As of 2008, at least 76 countries have stockpiles of cluster munitions (including all the countries above, that have produced them).[89][92] Countries listed in bold have subscribed to the Wellington Declaration, agreeing in principle that their stockpiles should be destroyed.

  •  Algeria
  •  Angola
  •  Austria
  •  Azerbaijan
  •  Bahrain
  •  Belarus
  •  Bosnia and Herzegovina
  •  Brazil
  •  Bulgaria
  •  Chile
  •  China
  •  Croatia
  •  Cuba
  •  Czech Republic
  • Flag of Denmark.svg Denmark
  •  Ecuador
  •  Egypt
  •  Estonia
  •  Eritrea
  •  Ethiopia
  •  Finland
  •  France
  •  Georgia
  •  Germany
  •  Greece
  •  Guinea
  •  Guinea-Bissau
  •  Hungary
  •  India
  •  Indonesia
  •  Israel
  •  Italy
  •  Japan
  •  Jordan
  •  Kazakhstan
  •  North Korea
  •  South Korea
  •  Kuwait
  •  Libya
  •  Moldova
  •  Mongolia
  •  Montenegro
  •  Morocco
  •  Netherlands
  •  Nigeria
  •  Oman
  •  Pakistan
  •  Peru
  •  Poland
  •  Portugal
  •  Romania
  •  Russia
  •  Saudi Arabia
  •  Serbia
  •  Singapore
  •  Slovakia
  •  South Africa[93]
  •  Spain
  •  Sudan
  •  Slovenia [94]
  •  Sweden
  •   Switzerland
  •  Syria
  •  Turkey
  •  Turkmenistan
  •  Uganda
  •  Ukraine
  •  United Arab Emirates
  •  United Kingdom
  • United States
  •  Uzbekistan
  •  Yemen
  •  Zimbabwe

Countries that have ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions

The Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force on 1 August 2010, six months after it was ratified by 30 states. To date, 83 states have ratified the convention:[2] For an updated list of countries, go to Convention on Cluster Munitions#States Parties

Financial institutions involved in the process of production of cluster munition

According to BankTrack, an international network of NGO specializing in control of financial institutions, many major banks and other financial corporations either directly financed, or provided financial services to companies producing cluster munition in 2005-2012. Among other, BankTrack 2012 report[95] names ABN AMRO, Bank of America, Bank of China, Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ, Barclays, BBVA, BNP Paribas, Citigroup, Commerzbank AG, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Crédit Agricole, Credit Suisse Group, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Industrial Bank of China, ING Group, JPMorgan Chase, Korea Development Bank, Lloyds TSB, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Royal Bank of Canada, Royal Bank of Scotland, Sberbank, Société Générale, UBS, Wells Fargo.

Many of these financial companies are connected to such producers of cluster munitions as Lockheed Martin, Textron, Raytheon, Rheinmetall, Thales Group, Singapore Technologies Engineering, and others.

According to Pax Christi, a Netherlands-based NGO, in 2009, around 137 financial institutions financed cluster munition production.[96] Out of 137 institutions, 63 were based in the United States, another 18 in the  European Union (the UK, France, Germany, Italy etc.), 16 were based in  People's Republic of China, 4 in  Singapore, 3 in each of:  Canada,  Japan,  Taiwan, 2 in   Switzerland, and 4 other countries had 1 financial institution involved.[97]

See also


  1. Article 17 of the
  2. 2.0 2.1 United Nations Treaty Collection: Convention on Cluster Munitions. Retrieved on 10 October 2012.
  3. ICBL - International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  4. 4.0 4.1 Austria bans cluster munitions, International Herald Tribune, 7 Dec 2007
  5. Cluster Weapons; Convenience or necessity?[dead link]
  6. Global LBU-30
  7. Loy, Irwin (7 December 2010). "Vietnam’s Cluster Bomb Shadow". GlobalPost. Tokyo. Retrieved 29 July 2012. 
  8. MacKinnon, Ian (3 December 2008). "Forty years on, Laos reaps bitter harvest of the secret war". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 29 July 2012. 
  9. Eaton, Daysha (6 June 2010). "In Vietnam, cluster bombs still plague countryside". GlobalPost. Boston, MA. Retrieved 29 July 2012. 
  10. The HALO Trust - A charity specialising in the removal of the debris of war :: British Embassy, Yerevan, holds event for HALO
  11. Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor | Country Profiles | Nagorno-Karabakh | 2010
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Meeting the Challenge – I. The Technological Evolution and Early Proliferation and Use of Cluster Munitions". Human Rights Watch. November 22, 2010. Retrieved October 27, 2012. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 Brady, Brian (2007-09-16). "Nato comes clean on cluster bombs". The Independent. London. Retrieved 2011-04-16. 
  16. US bomblets used Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, and Yemen
  17. Cluster bombs remain in 69 nations
  18. Cluster Bombs in Iraq, HRW
  19. Estados Unidos — Cientos de muertes de civiles en Irak pudieron prevenirse | Human Rights Watch
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  21. Wiseman, Paul (16 December 2003). "Cluster bombs kill in Iraq, even after shooting ends". USA Today. 
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  24. Reagan News Conferences & Interviews: Middle East/Israel 1982
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  29. Remember Lebanon on 13 August : Stop Cluster Bombs
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  31. "Middle East: Rice Calls For A 'New Middle East'". Radio Free Europe. 2006-07-25. 
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  35. Civil.Ge |
  36. Civil.Ge | MoD Says it Used Cluster Bombs, but not in Populated Areas
  37. News | Human Rights Watch
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  40. Taylor, Jerome These indiscriminate killers leave their deadly legacy from Libya to Lebanon The Independent, 16 August 2011, Retrieved 17 August 2011
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  47. CTV News - Cluster bomb use in Sri Lanka could trigger war crimes probe.
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  49. Firstpost - Cluster bombs used in Sri Lanka’s civil war: UN
  50. Cluster munitions: ICRC calls for urgent international action
  52. 'Circle of Impact', report on the human impact of cluster bombs
  53. M26 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS)
  54. "Off Target: The Conduct of the War and Civilian Casualties in Iraq" (PDF). Human Rights Watch. 2003-12. Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
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  70. Belgian ban
  71. "CCW review conference ends with rejection of US-backed proposal for protocol that would allow cluster bomb use". 
  72. "US-led attempt to allow cluster bomb use is rejected at UN negotiations". 
  73. "Eitan Barak,Doomed to Be Violated? The U.S.-Israeli Clandestine End-User Agreement and the Second Lebanon War: Lessons for the Convention on Cluster Munitions". 
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  79. Cluster Munition Coalition, Stop Cluster Munitions
  80. New Cluster Bomb Policy Aims to Reduce Collateral Damage - American Forces Press Service
  81. Signing Conference Website last retrieved on 28 November 2008
  82. Cluster bombs: MEPs to press for signature of treaty ban last retrieved on 19 November 2008
  83. Convention on Cluster Munitions to enter into force on 1 August 2010 ICRC web site
  84. Convention on cluster munitions – convention text in English[dead link]
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  86. Voice of America: Cluster Munitions Treaty to Take Effect Sunday
  87. Huffington Post: Cluster Bombs Treaty becomes international law: Years of campaigning reap results
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  90. Edward McGill Alexander (July 2003). "Appendix A to Chapter 9 of the Cassinga Raid". University of South Africa. 
  91. MND says Taiwan is ready to make cluster-bombs - Taipei Times
  92. Estonia remains clusterbombs in its weaponry
  93. "Air Force Weapons: Alpha Bomb". South African Air Force. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  94. Podpis pogodbe o kasetnem strelivu:: Prvi interaktivni multimedijski portal, MMC RTV Slovenija
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  96. - IKV Pax Christi on CM production, 2009
  97. Worldwide investments in CLUSTER MUNITIONS a shared responsibility IKV Pax Christi report update June 2012

External links


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