What is the difference between cluster bomb and conventional bomb?

Cluster bombs can also be classified as conventional bombs since they are not nuclear bombs. However, there are many kinds of conventional bombs, including armor-piercing, fragmentation, and incendiary bombs, so it is important to differentiate cluster bombs with those other explosive weapons. Among these conventional bombs, the cluster type is a particularly vicious and deadly weapon if used against massive troops or armies.

Each cluster bomb usually contains hundreds of bomblets, smaller versions of bombs that can fit inside a bigger bomb. After the explosive weapon is dropped, it rotates along a horizontal axis. A small explosive charge will open the casing, and the centrifugal force of the bomb distributes the bomblets far and wide while descending. When dropped correctly from the optimum altitude, the cluster bomb will kill anyone within the range of about 5,300 square meters. The bomblets themselves are often built to be pre-fragmented so that it can split into dozens of deadly shrapnel. They cause particular harm to human targets, but they may destroy vehicular targets as well.

When Was the Cluster Bomb First Used?

According to historical records, the first cluster bomb was the “Sprengbombe Dickwandig” or the German SD-2 used by Nazi Germany to attack Allied troops during World War II. The SD-2 is nicknamed the “Butterfly Bomb” because of how the bomblets spread in the air look like the wings of a butterfly.

After seeing how effective cluster bombs are in destroying enemy forces, several countries have begun producing their own cluster bombs to provide for their military units or sell to other nations. As of 2019, the cluster bomb has been produced in 34 countries and was used by 23, but more than 15 countries have stopped the production due to safety concerns.

The US developed their version of the cluster bomb and used it during the Vietnam War. However, there were about 260 million bomblets spread in Laos from 1964 and 1973 that failed to explode, and it eventually became dangerous to visit particular places in the country because the bomblets turned into invisible landmines. In 2009, it was reported that more than 6,000 people got injured or killed by the bomblets years after the Vietnam War ended.

Dangers of Unexploded Bomblets

Because of the dangers of unexploded bomblets, many countries sought to ban the development and use of cluster bombs. These countries eventually formed the Convention on Cluster Munitions in May 2008 in Dublin, Ireland. The convention aims to discourage other countries from developing cluster bombs and encourage them to join their cause. Today, there are 108 countries that signed the treaty against cluster bombs, and these countries include Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Afghanistan. The most notable countries that are yet to sign the treaty are the United States of America, China, South Korea, North Korea, and Russia. The convention hopes that these unsigned countries will join their cause soon to end the meaningless deaths of innocent civilians on the battlefield.

The United States claims that cluster bombs are an essential part of their strategies for winning a war. It is true that cluster bombs are effective in winning battles because of how deadly they are, but the US government recognizes the risks of having unexploded bomblets in areas where the cluster bombs landed. To solve this problem, the United States promised to develop advanced cluster bombs that are equipped with bomblets that won’t unexplode. Since 2018, cluster bombs are not being deployed by the US army because of the fact that they haven’t developed many safer versions of the explosive weapons.

There are currently more than ten countries that are producing cluster bombs either for their military forces or for others. The most prominent producers of cluster bombs are Egypt, Russia, Singapore, the United States, and North Korea. There are also countries that have produced these deadly bombs in the past, such as Japan and the United Kingdom, but they had stopped producing it when the signed the treat for the Convention on Cluster Munitions. However, there are also several signed countries that still have stocks of cluster bombs, like Peru and Bulgaria, but they are currently doing their best to destroy their stockpiles and discourage their military forces from using these weapons.

Additional reading:

Cluster munition (Wikipedia)

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