Saturday, August 12, 2006

Use of cluster bombs by the IDF

On Forums I frequent it was often suggested that Israel indiscriminately uses cluster bombs in the war. Known facts don´t support this assumption.
First off, from a military standpoint, what the Israeli Air Force is mainly hitting are point targets (houses, bridges, single launchers etc.), for which cluster bombs are of limited use. They are meant to be used against area targets and troop concentrations, which Hezbollah of course avoids (and that easily, blending among the civilan population).
Secondly, there has been no footage of unexploded bomblets or cluster bomb impacts so far (or any other proof for that matter), suggesting that the use, if at all, is very limited.

The only cluster ammunition confirmed to be currently used by the IDF is the M483A1 DPICM artillery shell, containing 88 Submunitions. It can be fired by the M109 based self propelled guns in the IDF inventory. A picture of the ammunition can be found at HWR´s website .
In a report on the dangers of UXOs to friendly forces, the US Army estimates the dud rate to be 5%, while human rights watch estimates it at 14%.
It is currently not known how large the portions of DPICM shells vs. "conventional" shells fired is, I suspect they´re mainly used for counter battery fire.
For further info about the kind of submunition used in M483A1 see the Database on Demining Accidents and Victims here , describing a yugoslav copy of the M42 submunition.

Conclusion: While it is confirmed that cluster munitions are used, the area of their used is limited, specifically to the border region that israeli artillery can reach. The intensitiy of their use is currently unknown. The submunitions produce duds possibly dangerous to everyone who approaches them.


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