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Bombs

Aircraft bombs in Laos are recorded as ‘big bombs’ they range in size from 20 lb fragmentation bombs through to 2000 lb general-purpose bombs, and occasionally to even bigger varieties. All the aircraft bombs dropped on Laos are of US origin. The types used range from World War Two vintage munitions through to the US Mark 80 series of bombs, which are still in service today. Like other munitions, the period of the war saw accelerated research and development with experimental weapons being used and refined, including the introduction of laser guided systems.

Within the size range a variety of fuze types were fitted including impact fuzes, chemical or electrical time delay fuzes, influence fuzes and some with anti-disturbance or removal features.

 

 

Bombs are heavy! They drop from the sky and can be found in a wide variety of situations and orientations; deep in the ground, on the surface where they have tumbled, sticking in the ground or emerging from it after the impact energy has driven them through different soil layers and densities turning and spinning the trajectory.

Given the nature of the war, today bombs can be found on mountains, in forests, in villages, rivers or along roads and paths.

The proximity to populations and structures are added factors for consideration when dealing with the bombs and making them safe. In many cases once the fuze systems are identified and the general condition of a bomb is assessed, then they can be moved to special sites for safe disposal. In other cases the safest option is to dispose of the bomb in situ by demolition, whilst in others it is possible to employ techniques that can open the bomb and allow the explosives to be burnt or removed and the bomb case recovered.

Annually more than 400 big bombs are destroyed by regulated UXO EOD teams and an unknown number by local ‘bomb’ opening entrepreneurs. Many more big bombs are known of and are waiting for teams to come and deal with them.

Bomb casings have a scrap value and a black market trade in salvaged explosives adds to the challenges and complexities of dealing with the UXO issues within Laos.