US Air Force Tests New Cluster Bomb That Does Not Kill Civilians

The US Air Force (USAF) has tested a new cluster bomb, BLU-136, which it says won’t leave unexploded munitions on the battlefield that can maim and kill innocent civilians decades later. 

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The tests were conducted at Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base where 10 BLU-136 were dropped at the target to test the effectiveness.

“The operational tests were designed to gather data to determine the operational performance of the BLU-136, specifically in the areas of blast and fragmentation damage,” Lt. Col. Daniel Lambert, 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron Global Strike division chief, said in a USAF news release.

“This data will help decision-makers determine if the BLU-136 is a viable substitute for the Air Force’s fleet of cluster bombs.”

A 2017 NYT report stated that that cluster bomblets can have a “dud” rate as high as 20%, meaning that 1 in 5 of the small explosive devices is left behind on the target site afterwards. These bombs can last for decades are later found by civilians especially children, as they like small toys, maiming and killing them due to the explosion. 

According to the USAF, the new bomb’s fragmentation is non-explosive, meaning any pieces left behind cannot explode at a later time.

“The loading of the weapons and delivery of the BLU-136/GBU-31v11 was the same as any other JDAM loading or delivery for the F-16, thus proving that if/when fielded, the weapon will be virtually ready from day one,” said Lambert. “This also means that the delivery of the GBU-31v11 from any other aircraft will likely require little to no changes in loading or delivery tactics.”

Pentagon has been widely criticized for using bomb clusters. More than 108 nations have signed the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, forswearing their use. However, the US refused to sign the treaty, although, President George W. Bush made a separate pledge to end the use of the weapons by 2019. 

“Because future adversaries will likely use civilian shields for military targets – for example by locating a military target on the roof of an occupied building – use of unitary weapons could result in more civilian casualties and damage than cluster munitions,” the Pentagon’s 2008 policy statement claimed.

“Blanket elimination of cluster munitions is therefore unacceptable due not only to negative military consequences but also due to potential negative consequences for civilians.”