[FoRK] Africa...

J. Andrew Rogers andrew at ceruleansystems.com
Fri Jan 8 10:52:31 PST 2010

On Jan 8, 2010, at 9:59 AM, Damien Morton wrote:
> Not sure what you are referring to as sensor-fuzed munitions? Are you
> talking smart bombs?

More or less. Every submunition ("bomblet") and land mine has its own moderately sophisticated sensor suite that it uses to individually identify and attack targets.  In the case of the cluster bomb submunitions, modern versions never hit the ground; they either locate and attack a target or self-destruct in flight if no target is detected within the field of view of the sensors.  All of these US weapons have had a few independent layers of deactivation fail-safes for a long time.

US land mine and cluster bomb munitions have been using increasingly sophisticated sensors for decades to determine whether or not something is a target of war.  Even the 1980s era land mines attempted to discriminate between combatants and non-combatants.  It hugely increases the unit cost of the weapon, so the US is the only country that really made the investment.

In the cases of cluster bombs, the modern sensor-fuzed submunitions have become very cost effective.  The ability to individually target and attack targets not directly in the ballistic path means that you get a lot of work done with one cluster bomb.

> For example, a quick google search on "M77 failure rate" turns references to
> US government figures of 5%, 16% and 26%, with British sources quoting 5-10%
> failure rates. This is the cluster munition used in the M26 rocket fired
> from the MLRS system.

The Viet Nam era cluster bombs general had 5-10% failure rate.  The Russian cluster bomb and land mine weaponry used in many theaters were an even bigger problem.   The US exported its Viet Nam inventory for many years (since the US has little use for them), though it has largely stopped doing so over the last decade or so.  Many other industrialized countries still buy, build, and use them.  Given the choice between cheap old dumb cluster bombs and expensive new smart cluster bombs, most industrialized countries buy the old versions.

The US only uses sensor-fuzed weapons; many of our allies do not. The righteous outrage of the guilty is not very convincing. While the US does have large stockpiles of 1960s and 1970s era cluster munitions, it does not use them and has slowly stopped exporting them.

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