Korea asks US to sell cluster bombs


CBU 105 cluster bomb

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), an arm of the U.S. Department of Defense, has asked the U.S. Congress to approve Seoul’s request to buy 367 advanced cluster bombs.

“The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress June 1 of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of the Republic of Korea for 367 CBU-105D/B Wind Corrected Munition Dispenser (WCMD) Sensor Fused Weapons and associated parts, equipment, logistical support and training for an estimated cost of $325 million,” according to a notification issued on the DSCA’s website.

The Korea Times broke the news on Dec. 14, 2011 that the South Korean Air Force plans to acquire CBU-105s this year, one of the most lethal and advanced cluster bombs, citing multiple sources.

The paper reported that the government set aside 236 billion won ($205 million) for the procurement of some 350 CBU-105s from the United States to boost the country’s deterrence against North Korea’s tanks and armored vehicles.

It did not specify the exact number of the advanced weapons at that time in order to protect the source.

The DSCA says in its notification that the South intends to use CBU-105s to “modernize its armed forces and enhance its capability to defeat a wide range of enemy defenses including fortifications, armored vehicles, and maritime threats.”

The U.S. defense agency points out that the munitions’ precision and low failure rate will reduce incidents of fratricide and increase overall effectiveness.

The CBU-105 is a 420-kilogram anti-armor cluster bomb that disperses 40 “ice-hockey puck-shaped” heat-seeking bomblets, or “skeets” above targets. The skeet’s infrared targeting system detects and locks onto heat signatures emitted by the engine of an armored vehicle.

According to a South Korean defense official, the new cluster bombs are capable of self-destruction 15 meters above the ground to prevent possible civilian causalities in the event that it fails to find a target.

The South has CBU-87 and MK20 Rockeye cluster bombs, but the use of them has been regarded as unethical as they are seen as weapons of mass destruction due to a high failure rate.

If cluster bombs don’t explode, they become anti-personnel landmines that can cause civilian causalities.

“Employment of the CBU-105D/B Sensor Fuzed Weapon will not result in more than 1 percent unexploded ordnance across the range of intended operational environments,” DSCA claimed.

The dud rate of conventional cluster bombs is believed to be more than five percent.

The National Assembly approved 2.7 billion won last year, a down payment to seal a deal with the Pentagon for the acquisition of the precision cluster-bombs.

A senior official at the parliamentary defense committee said the country’s arms procurement agency will try to lower the price through negotiations with the United States. <Korea Times/Lee Tae-hoon>


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