Timeline of cluster munitions use

Handicap International, a non-governmental organisation working to improve the conditions and quality of life of disabled people in the developing world and in post-conflict zones, defines cluster submunition as explosive ordnance that, to perform its task, separates from a parent munition or dispenser.

This definition includes all explosive ordnance designed to explode at some point in time after dispersal or release from the parent cluster munition, as well as munitions that are sometimes referred to as bomblets (e.g. from air-dropped cluster munitions), grenades (e.g. from ground-launched artillery, rocket or missile systems) and "improved conventional munitions".

1942 - Soviet Union forces use airdropped cluster munitions against German tanks.

1943 - German aircraft drop over 1,000 "butterfly bombs" in an attack on the British port of Grimsby.

1960s-1970s - US forces make extensive use of cluster munitions in bombing campaigns in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The International Committee of the Red Cross estimates that in Laos alone, nine to 27 million unexploded bomblets remain, and have killed or injured about 11,000 people since then, of which more than 30 percent were children. Another estimate, based on US military figures, says 9,500 sorties against tactical targets in Cambodia delivered up to 87,000 air-dropped cluster munitions.

1973 - Israel uses air-dropped cluster munitions against non-state armed groups (NSAG) near the Syrian capital, Damascus.

1975-1988 - Moroccan forces use cluster munitions in Western Sahara against NSAG.

1978 - Israel uses cluster munitions in southern Lebanon.

1979-1989 - Soviet forces use air-dropped and rocket-delivered cluster munitions against NSAG in Afghanistan, who also use rocket-delivered cluster munitions against Soviet forces.

1982 - Israel uses cluster munitions against Syrian forces and NSAG during an invasion of Lebanon.

1982 - British forces drop cluster munitions on Argentine positions in the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas near the capital, Port Stanley, and Port Howard.

1986 - French air forces use air-dropped cluster munitions against a Libyan airfield at the Chad town of Wadi Doum.

1991 - The US and its allies (France, Saudi Arabia and the UK) use 61,000 cluster bombs, containing about 20 million submunitions, in Iraq and Kuwait. The number of cluster munitions delivered by surface-launched artillery and rocket systems during the Gulf War is not known, but there are estimates that 30 million Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions (DPICMs can possess both anti-personnel and anti-vehicle explosives) were used during the conflict. About 2,400 failed cluster munitions were detected and destroyed in Kuwait in 2002.

1992-1995 - Yugoslavian forces use cluster munitions during the Bosnia-Herzegovina civil war.

1992-1997 - Use of cluster munitions by unknown forces during the Tajikistan civil war.

1994-1996 - Russian forces use cluster munitions against NSAG in Chechnya.

1995 - In May, an NSAG uses Orkan M87 multiple-rocket launchers to attack civilians in the Croatian capital of Zagreb.

1996-1999 - Sudanese government forces use air-dropped cluster munitions in southern Sudan.

1997 - Nigerian ECOMOG peacekeepers use cluster munitions on the town of Kenema in Sierra Leone.

1998 - Ethiopia and Eritrea air-drop cluster munitions on each other. Ethiopia attacks the airport in Eritrea's capital, Asmara, while Eritrea attacks the airport in Mekele, the main city in the Tigray region in the far north of Ethiopia.

1998-1999 - Both NATO and Yugoslav forces use cluster-munitions strikes in Albania during the Kosovo conflict.

1999 - The US, UK and the Netherlands drop 1,765 cluster bombs, containing about 295,000 submunitions, in Yugoslavia and Kosovo.

2001-2002 - The United States drops 1,228 cluster bombs containing 248,056 submunitions in Afghanistan.

2003 - The US and UK use nearly 13,000 cluster munitions, containing and estimated 1.8 million to two million submunitions, during three weeks of military operations in Iraq.

2006 - Israeli forces use ground-launched and air-dropped cluster munitions against NSAG in Lebanese border villages.

Courtesy Disarmament Forum

The United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), an autonomous institute within the UN, conducts research on disarmament and security. The Disarmament Forum is one of the main periodical publications of UNIDIR.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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