Does Russia Use Cluster Bombs? More Information

Please note that the text in red is the only possible Russian use of cluster bombs in this war. The author states that he has seen countless videos of Russian troops in this war and he’s never seen one of Russian troops using this particular weapon. Yes, there are allegations that they use them on pretty rare occasions, but he hasn’t been able to document it. He then notes that the official Russian state position on cluster bombs is that they have not used them in this war for whatever reason.

Me: Well, fine, so does Russia use cluster bombs or not?

Hate to get technical again, but ‘cluster bombs’ is a subset of the wider category of weapons with submunitions. I’ve seen a handful of clips of mortar and artillery shells with submunitions being used but not many and only in very specific circumstances. Those are technically not cluster bombs, but I suspect your question includes them.

I’ve also seen a fair few number of clips of (MLRS-fired) rockets deploying incendiary submunitions. Again, technically those are not cluster bombs. And Russia has made no secret of using artillery-deliverable mines (including those that come as submunitions).

I’ve heard it said that Russia has occasionally used genuine MLRS-fired rockets with cluster bombs, but I can’t recall having seen any clips to support that.

I believe that the official position is that so far Russia has refrained from using them, although they almost certainly use a stricter definition of cluster bombs than you appear to do.

Me: People are saying Grads are cluster bombs.

Those people are idiots. Grads fire rockets. There are different kinds of rockets they can fire. Some of those have submunitions. And some of those come as bomblets.

Me: Do submunitions from Grads fail to explode?

Yes, there’s never a 100

Me: Do all weapons that use submunitions have bomblets that fail to explode and therefore have fail rates?

No, some submunitions have incendiary charges for example, not bomblets. But those too can fail to go off and have some potential of hurting innocents later on. And there are of course cluster-delivered mines, also technically not cluster bombs.

Me: How about regular mortar and artillery shells? How many of those are duds?

Hard to say. Depends of the type of artillery, type and age of round, storage conditions, production standards, fuse settings, etc. There have been reports of some Ukrainian troops (ethnic Russians conscripted into the Ukrainian army) leaving notes with mines they emplaced stating that they deliberately tampered with them so that they wouldn’t go off. It’s likely that some artillery rounds will also have been tampered with somewhere along the line, resulting in additional duds for the Ukrainians.

Me: If some of those are duds, how is it not as bad as a cluster bomb? Because it’s large enough to see?

Partly, and also because regular mortar and artillery shells have both more mass and more velocity than a submunition’s bomblet. That means that duds typically bury themselves into the ground, sometimes quite deep, depending on the type of soil. Bomblets on the other hand fall onto the ground and stay on top of it, posing a much more direct hazard. And they have different fuses.

Me: Will an unexploded mortar round blow up if you pick it up?

Possible, but highly unlikely. They have different kinds of fuses than bomblets do and are much, much less dangerous to handle. Still not a good idea though.

The butterfly mines that the Ukrainians have been firing into Donetsk for example have a pressure fuse, and the pressure from your fingers holding it is enough to trigger it (if the fuse is set right). Obviously, these are amongst the most dangerous of submunitions, as they have an intentional delayed explosive action.

Modern Russian submunitions (at least the mines – I’m not sure about the bomblets) have either a timed self-destruct feature or one that turns it inert after a while. But, of course, those features can fail too.

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