U.S. President Joe Biden approved the provision of cluster munitions to Ukraine. Their withdrawal from the Pentagon’s stockpile will be announced on July 7, the Washington Post reported (reported by UNIAN). The move involves circumventing U.S. legislation prohibiting the production, use, or transfer of cluster munitions with a failure rate of more than 1%.
According to WP, Ukraine will receive M864 cluster artillery shells, first produced in 1987. They will be launched from 155-mm howitzers provided to Ukraine by the United States and partners. In a publicly available assessment more than 20 years ago, the Pentagon noted that the “failure rate” of this artillery shell was 6 percent. This means that at least four of each of the 72 submunitions each shell carries will remain unexploded and become a danger to civilians.
The Pentagon has stated that it has new estimates based on 2020 testing, with a failure rate of no more than 2.35%, and that these are the shells that will be selected for Ukraine.
Although the U.S. has not produced these types of munitions in years, Human Rights Watch estimates from Defense Department reports that 4.7 million cluster munitions, missiles and bombs remain in the stockpile, containing more than 500 million submunitions or bombs. Cluster munitions could help Ukraine significantly in the current counterattack, as artillery stocks are rapidly running out and production has not kept pace with demand.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said: “The Russians are using three to four times more artillery shells of different calibers than we are. And we have to save money because we can’t shell so intensively. Because these shells (cluster shells – UNIAN) are effective, they will allow us to make up this difference. The Russians use them against us, so we have every right to use the same ammunition for our self-defense. This is only where there are fields, because it is very important not to harm civilians. We will not use them to de-occupy cities”.
Meanwhile, U.S. Army Artillery Doctrine warns that DPICM submunitions “can pose a significant risk to friendly personnel and equipment”. That is, unexploded ordnance could also threaten the troops who launched it while advancing.
In particular, several U.S. military personnel died from detonations of unexploded ordnance during the Gulf War.