The Pentagon’s plan to ban the use of older types of cluster bombs due to take effect on Jan. 1, 2019, has been delayed indefinitely. US officials are stating that safety improvements in munitions technology, in particular, because of a large number of bombs that failed to explode hasn’t advanced enough to replace older stockpiles.
Cluster bombs can be dropped by air or fired by artillery, and they scatter tiny bomblets across a wide area but are prone many times with the failure to explode. That can make them a deadly side effect long after the conflict and poses a danger to civilians.
The U.S. military had hoped to transition to cluster munitions that explode at least 99 percent of time, greatly reducing the risks.
“Although the Department seeks to field a new generation of more highly reliable munitions, we cannot risk mission failure or accept the potential of increased military and civilian casualties by forfeiting the best available capabilities,” the Pentagon memo says.
Disclosure of the new policy met sharp criticism from Congress and human rights groups.
Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat who has helped lead efforts to restrict use of cluster bombs, said the Pentagon was, in effect, “perpetuating use of an indiscriminate weapon that has been shown to have high failure rates.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein called the move “unbelievable.”
The Pentagon has stated that they haven’t used cluster munitions in several years and is working on new technology that will result in a 99 percent rate of explosion when dropped as well as a built-in safety device that will render the bomblets inert after 15 minutes of being dropped.
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