Why are cluster munitions so notorious for leaving unexploded bomblets around?


Is it poor build quality or are they not designed to explode on impact?

In: 1717

For each bomb you make there is a small chance that something goes wrong (including the impact itself) and it wouldn’t explode. It’s small but it’s there. Cluster bomb = 100x more bombs per bomb. So, 100x more unexploded bombs with the same build quality.

Figure a cluster bomb as basically a farmer tossing seeds onto his fields. A lot of those seeds land correctly… but a fair number don’t, and so won’t be in the right conditions to germinate.

Cluster bombs are a big handful of bomblets attached to a delivery device. When the device releases the bomblets, they spread out like that farmer’s tossed handful of seeds. Many will impact the type of surface that cause them to detonate, but many might not, hitting something soft, or not hitting at the correct angle, or caroming partially off an obstacle. So they’re still intact and active, and perhaps buried under some rubble or partially embedded in a wall or something.

And when that wall gets knocked down by civilian heavy equipment later… boom.

From my understanding the most sensitive and likely to fail part of the bomb is the triggering mechanism. When the bombs are set off in real world situations they don’t land like they are designed to, or it’s hotter than it’s supposed to be or any weird situation can make the trigger not click.

Ya know when you light a pack of firecrackers and sometimes there’s a few left because they were blown away from the bundle but not ignited. Like that.

They leave a *lot* of bomblets, so the law of large numbers catches up. If a regular munition has a 2% chance of failing to explode, then it’s probably going to work fine. If a cluster bomb with 100 bomblets has a 2% failure chance, then you’re expecting two of them not to explode.

The other reason for their notoriety is their size. Bomblets are small. A regular 155mm artillery round weighs over 90 pounds and is very large. If it doesn’t explode you will see it on the ground, and if you somehow don’t and hit it then it has enough mass where you won’t be able to trip an internal mechanism. A bomblet will fit in your hand and is easier to set off by accident.