You'll likely hear more about the Cluster Munitions Coalition (CMC) in a few weeks. The organization is meeting in Geneva at the Convention on Conventional Weapons on August 2-12, 2005. CMC is following the same model as the Mine Ban Treaty, with a group of non-governmental organizations lobbying for an immediate moratorium on all submunitions use, the destruction of older submunitions with high failure rates, and other measures to reduce the impact of cluster munitions on non-combatants.
First used in Vietnam, early cluster munitions had a relatively high failure rate of anywhere from 5 to 30 percent, leaving the battlefield littered with small bomblets that posed a threat to anyone civilian or military -- that might stumble upon one. Newer versions of cluster munitions include self-destruct devices so there are fewer "dud" bomblets, but the sheer numbers of bomblets distributed by a bomb or rocket salvo means there's always a potential for unexploded ordinance. For example, a MLRS salvo of 12 rockets dispenses over 7700 bomblets. A failure rate of five percent would leave nearly 400 unexploded bomblets littering the countryside.
Manufacturers have become more savvy in developing self-destruct mechanisms and advertising that their munitions use them. The last thing a military commander wants to hear is that his troops have been injured by so-called "friendly fire" from dud ordinance. Doug Mohney
Activist groups, having "solved" the problem of land mines killing non-combatants, through the passage of a Mine Ban treaty, are now turning their attention to cluster munitions. The Mine Ban Treaty came into force in 1999, but 42 countries have not agreed to the ban on the production, stockpiling, and use of antipersonnel mines. Countries not onboard include China, India, Pakistan, Russia and the United States basically, most of the larger land mine producers, and military powers, on the planet.