Feeds

MoD to stop using 'dumb' cluster weapons

Self-destruct mechanisms now count as smart

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) made a push for the moral high ground yesterday, announcing that the British forces would cease to use “dumb” cluster munitions with immediate effect.

"This is an important decision,” said Defence Secretary Des Browne. “We are doing this because it is the right thing to do – but we hope that other countries will now follow suit."

The usual definition of a dumb weapon is one which is not guided in flight or otherwise capable of hitting a precise point or small target. Examples would include simple free-falling aircraft bombs or ordinary artillery shells.

Cluster munitions are those which don’t use a single warhead but rather break open to shower their target area with large numbers of explosive bomblets. Typically a percentage of these will fail to detonate and remain scattered about the area afterward, effectively constituting a particularly nasty and troublesome field of land mines. This has led to strong condemnation and calls for their use to be discontinued.

The UK is to destroy all its remaining stocks of the RBL 755 air-dropped cluster bomb and the M26 heavy artillery rocket, which are both dumb and cluster in nature. The MoD notes that this will mean getting rid of 28 million bomblets in total.

Cynics might note that both of these weapons were marked for the bin long ago, well before much concern had arisen over cluster-submunition weaponry. The RBL 755 will be replaced by Brimstone, a guided rocket system which began development eleven years ago. The M26 rocket has never been used since 1991, with the British army declining to deploy it even for the 2003 Iraq invasion. Its replacement, the GMLRS, was ordered in 1998 and is already entering service. The MoD isn’t really responding to pressure here, it is merely carrying on with planned modernizations and trying to pick up a little credit.

There was no word on any plans to dispose of the army’s stocks of 155mm Extended Range Bomblet Shell (ERBS). These are Israeli-made dumb artillery shells which scatter submunitions. However, junior defence minster Adam Ingram has said “the UK does not consider that to be a so-called dumb cluster munition because it has a self-destruct mechanism.” The failure rate of ERBS bomblets has been only 2 per cent in trials, less than half what might be expected from submunitions without self-destruct. A heavy bombardment will still leave lethal duds scattered about, however.

As of last October, the UK still had 16,000 older bomblet-scattering M483 artillery shells which have no self-destruct mechanisms. The M483 has to be a dumb cluster munition even under the MoD’s rather elastic definition, and these rounds weren’t mentioned specifically by Mr Browne yesterday. However, they have previously been described as “withdrawn from service,” which would normally mean gradual disposal. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
George Clooney, WikiLeaks' lawyer wife hand out burner phones to wedding guests
Day 4: 'News'-papers STILL rammed with Clooney nuptials
Shellshock: 'Larger scale attack' on its way, warn securo-bods
Not just web servers under threat - though TENS of THOUSANDS have been hit
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
PEAK IPV4? Global IPv6 traffic is growing, DDoS dying, says Akamai
First time the cache network has seen drop in use of 32-bit-wide IP addresses
Oracle SHELLSHOCKER - data titan lists unpatchables
Database kingpin lists 32 products that can't be patched (yet) as GNU fixes second vuln
Researchers tell black hats: 'YOU'RE SOOO PREDICTABLE'
Want to register that domain? We're way ahead of you.
Stunned by Shellshock Bash bug? Patch all you can – or be punished
UK data watchdog rolls up its sleeves, polishes truncheon
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.