Cluster Bombs and Thermobaric Weapons

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Apr 26, 2022, 7:57

Recently, the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused Russia of employing Cluster Bombs and Thermobaric Weapons in the continuing conflict with Ukraine.

Cluster Bombs and Thermobaric Weapons - Definition

Cluster bombs (also known as cluster munitions) are a form of explosive that can be dropped from the air or delivered from the ground. It disperses tiny projectiles or explosive bomblets across a vast area to kill enemy troops or destroy vehicles. It might be a biological, chemical, or explosive attack.

A thermobaric weapon (also known as an aerosol bomb or vacuum bomb or Fuel Air Explosive) is a type of weapon that generates a high-temperature explosion by using oxygen from the surrounding environment. The most extensively deployed and well-known version of thermobaric weaponry is the fuel-air explosive (FAE).

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Cluster Bombs and Thermobaric Weapons - Concerns

  • Cluster bombs are non-precision weapons meant to damage or kill people indiscriminately over a vast area, as well as destroy vehicles and infrastructure including runways, railways, and electricity transmission lines.
  • Hundreds of bomblets (or submunitions) of Cluster Bombs and Thermobaric Weapons are generally scattered across an area the size of two to four football fields by a cluster bomb.
  • Many of these bomblets do not explode and remain on the ground, being frequently partially or completely concealed and impossible to identify and remove, posing a hazard to civilians long after combat has stopped.
  • A thermobaric weapon inflicts far more destruction than a conventional bomb of equivalent size.
  • Thermobaric bombs are lethal and effective in urban and open environments, and they may even penetrate bunkers and other subterranean sites, depriving inhabitants of oxygen.
  • Bomblets of Cluster Bombs and Thermobaric Weapons are tiny, about the size of a 'D' battery or a tennis ball, with a 30 percent failure rate; unexploded bomblets become de facto landmines.

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Cluster Bombs and Thermobaric Weapons - Prevention

  • There is a body called Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM). It is a legal instrument issued by the United Nations that outlaws the use, manufacturing, transfer, and stockpiling of Cluster Bombs and Thermobaric Weapons in any form.
  • There are now 110 State Parties and 13 Signatory States in the convention.
  • Countries that ratify the treaty agree not to use Cluster Bombs and Thermobaric Weapons and to never create, produce, acquire, maintain, stockpile or transfer these to anybody.
  • The convention has not been signed by India, and it is not a member of CCM. The United States, Russia, China, Pakistan, and Israel, among others, are also not members of CCM.
  • Although there is no international law or convention prohibiting the use of Cluster Bombs and Thermobaric Weapons, the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 give the power to stand against its use to civilians in built-up areas, schools, or hospitals.
  • The international conferences of the Hague Convention (between 1899 and 1907) define the norms that belligerents must observe during hostilities while considering the use of such bombs and weapons.

The efforts to outlaw Cluster Bombs and Thermobaric Weapons have failed to yield a permanent ban. The 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (often known as the "Inhumane Weapons Convention") targets incendiary weapons, however, these bombs and weapons have escaped an outright ban.

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FAQs on Cluster Bombs and Thermobaric Weapons

Q1. Is it legal to use Cluster Bombs and Thermobaric Weapons?

Ans. No. There is a Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) that does not allow the use of Cluster Bombs and Thermobaric Weapons to be legal.

Q2. How many countries have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) to prohibit the use of Cluster Bombs and Thermobaric Weapons?

Ans. The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) has 110 state parties, with 13 more nations have signed but not yet ratified Cluster Bombs and Thermobaric Weapons.

Q3. What is the use of Cluster Bombs and Thermobaric Weapons?

Ans. Cluster Bombs and Thermobaric Weapons are used for mass destruction during combat with different countries.

Q4. What is the major difference between Cluster Bombs and Thermobaric Weapons?

Ans. Cluster Bombs and Thermobaric Weapons are distinguished by the fact that cluster bombs contain 100% fuel while thermobaric weapons have 25% fuel and 75% oxidizer.

Q5. Which recent event used Cluster Bombs and Thermobaric Weapons?

Ans. Recently, Russia employed Cluster Bombs and Thermobaric Weapons in its continuing conflict with Ukraine.