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09 Jul. 2023

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Cluster munitions from the US. Why is this important and what are the principles of their use in Ukraine?

Der Weg zum Sieg
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Cluster munitions from the US. Why is this important and what are the principles of their use in Ukraine?

The United States has confirmed that it will provide Ukraine with cluster munitions prohibited by international conventions. Find out what is special about these munitions, why Ukraine needs them, and what principles of use the Ukrainian authorities have stated

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Washington has officially confirmed that it will provide Kyiv with cluster munitions for the offensive and liberation of territories. It is worth noting that a large batch of such ammunition can turn the tide at the front in Ukraine's favor in the shortest possible time, and so russia has already begun to make a fuss about this news.

Earlier it became known that the White House would provide Ukraine with depleted uranium shells. Read more about this here.


What are cluster munitions and why are they prohibited by international conventions?


Cluster weapons are a type of projectile or rocket that contains dozens, and in some cases hundreds, of smaller explosive elements. As a result, when a given target is hit, the area covered by a cluster munition increases tenfold. The ammunition is scattered into a large number of small munitions (in the air or on the ground) and hits a much larger number of enemy vehicles and manpower.


The effectiveness of such weapons is very high, but cluster munitions are considered "indiscriminate" weapons because they can cover a very large area and pose a threat to civilian objects and people. In addition, not all submunitions of such missiles explode immediately, which means that they can remain in the grass or ground and pose a danger even after the end of hostilities. 

Therefore, according to an international convention signed by 120 states 13 years ago, their use is prohibited. However, it should be noted that China, the United States, Ukraine, and russia have not joined the signing of this convention.


Why are cluster munitions so necessary for Ukraine?


Unfortunately, russia has a significant advantage in the number of artillery shells on the battlefield. In certain parts of the frontline, the difference between the number of shells fired by Ukraine and russia reaches a 10-fold gap. Therefore, the availability of cluster munitions in the Ukrainian Armed Forces will allow them to gain an advantage not even due to the number, but due to the area of target damage.


In addition, according to the Minister of Defense of Ukraine Oleksiy Reznikov, russia has been using cluster munitions since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, not only on the front line, but also in frontline cities where civilians live. Therefore, Ukraine has every right to use this type of ammunition to destroy the russian army and advance deeper into the enemy's positions. Similar opinions were expressed by other representatives of the Ukrainian government.




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Principles of the use of cluster munitions declared by Ukraine


Since 2011, the United States has banned the transfer or export of cluster munitions that have a failure rate of more than 1%. The elemental failure rate is the number of shells that do not explode immediately. However, the current document has exceptions. In particular, weapons can be transferred to the allies if the ammunition is to be used only against clearly defined military targets in places where civilians are not present.

Therefore, after the White House officially announced the provision of cluster weapons to Ukraine, Oleksiy Reznikov made an appeal and announced that the Ukrainian side was committed to adhering to five principles of using cluster munitions. In particular, these are the following provisions:


1. Ukraine will use cluster munitions only for the de-occupation of its territories, which are recognized in the international legal framework. That is, the weapon can be used in the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine within the 1991 borders, and will not be used to strike at the territory of the russian federation.

2. Ukraine undertakes not to use cluster munitions in cities, and will strike only at areas where russian troops are concentrated to break through enemy defense lines.

3. Ukraine will keep strict records of the use of weapons and the areas where they were used.

4. Ukraine will give priority to demining the areas where this type of projectile was used immediately after the end of hostilities.

5. Ukraine undertakes to inform its international partners about the fact of the use of cluster munitions and the effectiveness of hitting targets.


What kind of cluster munitions can the United States provide?


According to analysts and experts, the United States is most likely to provide Ukraine with M864 155-caliber cluster artillery shells. This ammunition is suitable for the vast majority of artillery pieces and howitzers that Ukraine currently has in service.

The M864 shell contains 72 submunitions measuring 82 mm and weighing 210 grams, each of which carries an explosive. This type of munition opens in the air and releases explosive elements that detonate on impact.

The failure rate of such a projectile has received different estimates. A 2003 report estimated the failure rate at 6%, meaning that at least 4 out of 72 submunitions would not explode immediately upon impact with a target or the ground. However, according to recent statements by the US Department of Defense, the M864's failure rate is currently no higher than 2.35%.


We remind you that drones, simulators, artificial intelligence, robots, and multicopters also play a very important role in warfare. Read more about Ukrainian military-tech developments that help the Armed Forces of Ukraine bring Ukraine's victory closer in our previous article.


Photo: Press service of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine




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