WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon will indefinitely delay a ban on the use of older types of cluster bombs due to take effect on Jan. 1, 2019, officials say, arguing safety advances in munitions technology had failed to advance enough to replace older stockpiles.
Cluster bombs, dropped by air or fired by artillery, scatter bomblets across a wide area which sometimes fail to explode and are difficult to locate and remove. That can lead to civilian deaths and injuries long after conflicts end.
The U.S. military had hoped to transition to cluster munitions that explode at least 99 percent of time, greatly reducing the risks.
But with just over one year to go before the ban’s slated implementation, a Pentagon spokesman told Reuters that safety technology had not progressed enough to replace existing stockpiles with safer weaponry.
“Although the Department seeks to field a new generation of more highly reliable munitions, we cannot risk mission failure or accept the potential of increased military and civilian casualties by forfeiting the best available capabilities,” according to a Pentagon memo seen by Reuters.
Reporting by Phil StewartEditing by Marguerita Choy