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Cluster Bombs

A cluster munition is a conventional weapon that consists of an outer canister that is designed to disperse or release smaller bombs (submunition bomblets) that weight less than 20 kilograms each.

These submunitions are known throughout the Lao PDR as 'bombies'.

The cluste rmunition is dropped from a plane or launched from the ground into the air, where it ejects bombies over a wide area. Bombies that were dropped on the Lao PDR had a high failure rate leaving an estimated 30 percent unexploded and scattered across a wide area after deployment. When disturbed, even decades later, bombies and other UXO can explode, injuring and killing civilians as they carry out their daily activities.

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The design of cluster munitions exposes civilian populations to great danger, during and after the use of these weapons.  They can disperse the submunitions over large areas, they have a proven high failure rate, and  have sensitive fusing systems that means small disturbances, such as those generated by an unsuspecting civilian, can trigger a live bomblet.

Submunitions of cluster munitions are categorised by:

- means of delivery
- intended effects
- fusing system
- having/ not having target identification or guidance mechanisms
- having/ not having self-destruct and/or self-deactivation mechanism.

There are as many as 208 different types of cluster bombs in use globally.
In Laos the most common types are the BLU 23, BLU 24, BLU 26, BLU 61, and the BLU 63.

Cluster bombs account for the majority of UXO dropped on Laos, and current clearance rates show that annually 'bombies' make up roughly 50% of the type of UXO being cleaered. Additionally, in the last decade 30% of UXO accidents in Laos were caused by cluster bombs.

Banning the Bomb

In 2008, after two years of international negotiations, the International community met in Oslo, Norway to finalise a global ban on the use of, production, stockpile, and distribution of clustermunitions. Throughout 2009 momentum for the Convention grew, as more and more countries signed and ratified the Treaty, and on the 16th of February 2010, the two nations of Burkina Faso and Moldova became the 29th and 30th nations respectively to ratify the ban on cluster munitions. In doing so the Convention was triggered for entry into force, due to take place on the 1st of August 2010, when it will become international law.

For more information on the Convention click here.