US Decides to Supply Widely Banned Cluster Bombs to Ukraine to Prop Up Counter Offensive

The United States will send cluster bombs to Ukraine as part of its $800 million military aid package to Kyiv. An announcement on this is expected to be made by President Joe Biden on Friday, multiple media outlets reported.

The US decision runs counter to broad international consensus on the use of this deadly munition, which can cause severe civilian casualties.

Cluster Bomb working
Cluster Bomb working Screen grab - Twitter

Ukraine has been Pressing for Cluster Bombs

Ukraine has been actively seeking cluster munitions from the US. Washington has showered Kyiv with a surfeit of weapons since the start of Russia's war last year, and is intent on beating back the arch rival. The decision on supplying Ukraine with cluster bombs comes at a time when Kyiv's counteroffensive against Russia in the south and east of the country seems to have failed to reach its projected goals.

According to the Pentagon, the version of cluster munition that will be sent to Ukraine is the one with 155 mm shells fired from American howitzer artillery.

However, Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said there was no announcement yet from the defense ministry about the deployment to Ukraine.

Zelensky and Bidens
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky met Joe and Jill Biden at the White House but was not wearing a suit Twitter

What are Cluster Bombs?

Cluster ammunition is an explosive weapon, which, once launched, releases or ejects smaller submunitions. It can be airdropped or ground-launched. Cluster bomb, more commonly, ejects bomblets on being launched, that are designed to kill personnel and destroy vehicles.

Since cluster bombs release multiple smaller bomblets over a wide area where they're dropped, they pose grave risks to civilians during the attack as well as in the aftermath of it. The unexploded bomblets can kill or injure people long after the fight has ended and are hard as well as costly to find and remove. Cluster bombs are attached to rockets, bombs, missiles and artillery shells. and they break apart midair, spraying around the munitions across large areas.

Stance of US and Russia on Cluster Bombs

Several countries have banned the use of cluster munitions but the United States is not a signatory to the international convention banning the deployment of cluster munitions. The US used cluster bombs during its invasion of Iraq in 2003. Washington also says Moscow has used cluster bombs in its ongoing military campaign in Ukraine.

High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) Wikimedia Commons

The International Committee of the Red Cross says cluster munitions need to be banned as they typically leave behind bomblets that have a high rate of failure to explode. This rate is as high as 40 percent in some cases.

What is Dud Rate?

The US Generals have said the cluster munitions that will be sent to Ukraine will have lower 'dud rates'. "The ones that we are considering providing would not include older variants with [dud] rates that are higher than 2.35%," General Ryder said. He added that the Us military will be carefully selecting rounds with lower dud rates and that there is solid testing data on dud rates to go by, according to ABC News.

More US Weapons for Ukraine

Apart from the cluster bombs, the latest military aid for Ukraine will also include Bradley and Stryker armored vehicles, rounds for howitzers and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, (HIMARS).