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Science & Technology
Cluster bombsand Vacuum bombs
- Russia has been accused for using cluster bombs and vacuum bombs in the ongoing war against Ukraine.
- According to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, a cluster munition means a “conventional munition that is designed to disperse or release explosive submunitions each weighing less than 20 kilograms, and includes those explosive submunitions”.
- Cluster munitions, usually called cluster bombs, were deployed for the first time in 1943 by Soviet and German forces. Since then, over 200 types of these munitions have been developed.
- Essentially, cluster munitions are non-precision weapons that are designed to injure or kill human beings indiscriminately over a large area, and to destroy vehicles and infrastructure such as runways, railway or power transmission lines.
- They can be dropped from an aircraft or launched in a projectile that spins in flight, scattering many bomblets as it travels.
- Many of these bomblets end up not exploding, but continue to lie on the ground, often partially or fully hidden and difficult to locate and remove, posing a threat to the civilian population for long after the fighting has ceased.
- The Convention on Cluster Munitions specifically identifies “cluster munition remnants”, which include “failed cluster munitions, abandoned cluster munitions, unexploded submunitions and unexploded bomblets”.
- Thermobaric weapons — also known as aerosol bombs, fuel air explosives, or vaccum bombs — use oxygen from the air for a large, high-temperature blast.
- A thermobaric weapon causes significantly greater devastation than a conventional bomb of comparable size.
- The weapons, which go off in two separate stages, can be fired as rockets from tank-mounted launchers or dropped from aircraft.
- As they hit their target, a first explosion splits open the bomb’s fuel container, releasing a cloud of fuel and metal particles that spreads over a large area.
- A second explosion then occurs, igniting the aerosol cloud into a giant ball of fire and sending out intense blast waves that can destroy even reinforced buildings or equipment and vaporise human beings.
Is it legal to use these weapons?
- Countries that have ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions are prohibited from using cluster bombs. As of date, there are 110 state parties to the convention, and 13 other countries have signed up but are yet to ratify it. Neither Russia nor Ukraine are signatories.
- Vacuum bombs are not prohibited by any international law or agreement, but their use against civilian populations in built-up areas, schools or hospitals, could, according to a report in the BBC, attract action under the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907