Air Force tests new fragmenting alternative to cluster bombs that won't leave behind unexploded ordnance
US Air Forcerecently conducted operational tests of a new fragmenting bombintended to replace controversial cluster munitions.
- F-16s dropped 10 BLU-136 Next-Generation Area Attack Weapons (NGAAWs) at the Nellis Test and Training Range.
- Unlike cluster bombs, the 2,000-pound BLU-136 releases metal fragments rather than explosive submunitions, which tend to end up as unexploded ordnance that poses a serious threat to civilians.
The US Air Force recently conducted operational tests of the new BLU-136 Next-Generation Area Attack Weapon, a fragmenting bomb intended to leave behind less unexploded ordnance and kill fewer civilians than controversial cluster munitions.The 2,000-pound bomb, part of a family of warheads that also includes the 500-pound BLU-134, releases deadly metal fragments instead of the "bomblets" released by the CBU-87 and CBU-103 cluster munitions.
A total of 10 BLU-136 bombs were dropped during the recent tests, which were conducted at the Nellis Test and Training Range.Lt. Col. Daniel Lambert, 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron Global Strike division chief, explained in a statement that "the operational tests were designed to gather data to determine the operational performance of the BLU-136." The Air Force was looking closely at "blast and fragmentation damage," he said, adding that "this data will help decision makers determine if the BLU-136 is a viable substitute for the Air Force's fleet of
While the US is not a signatory to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, an international treaty that prohibits the use of cluster bombs, explosive weapons that scatter submunitions, it has taken steps to make changes to its arsenal.
The Air Force first started developing the BLU-136 as an "area attack" alternative to cluster bombs following a 2008 Department of Defense policy directive in response to civilian casualties as a result of unexploded cluster munitions left on foreign battlefields.The Department of Defense policy directed the military to phase out the use of cluster bombs with a failure rate greater than 1% by the end of 2018. Unable to develop cluster munitions that met that standard, the military began exploring alternatives.
The Pentagon backtracked in 2017 though, deciding to indefinitely put off its decision to stop using these problematic munitions. Nonetheless, work on possible alternatives continues.
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