Last US cluster bomb manufacturer ends production

Posted on 7 Sep 2016 by Michael Cruickshank

The final company in the US manufacturing controversial cluster bombs announced last week that it would end production of these munitions.

Textron Systems, a Rhode Island based aerospace and defense company, had for many years produced the CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapon – a 1000-pound cluster munition.

In a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission however, the company announced that it would be ending the production of this weapon.

“The plan provides for Textron Systems to discontinue production of its sensor-fuzed weapon product, in light of reduced orders,” the company’s statement read.

Beyond reduced orders, the company also laid the blame on political interference.

“Historically, sensor-fuzed weapon sales have relied on foreign military and direct
commercial international customers for which both executive branch and congressional approval is required. The current political environment has made it difficult
to obtain these approvals,” they claimed.

What the company is likely referring to here is a proposed sale last May of the CBU-105 cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia which was blocked by the White House.

The specific reason for this block is likely due to allegations that Saudi Arabia had been using these weapons in its bombing campaign in Yemen.

Cluster munitions are controversial not just due to the fact that they are area-effect weapons, but also due to the large number of ‘bomblets’ that do not explode on initial use.

These unexploded bombs litter the landscape and cause defacto minefields which harm civilians for years after the end of a conflict.

More than 100 nations have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which bans the stockpiling, transfer, or use of these weapons. Nonetheless, major world powers such as the US, China or Russia have not signed on.

For this reason both the US government, and companies like Textron have come under immense pressure to end cluster bomb production, as part of a campaign led by NGOs like Human Rights Watch.

At this stage however it is unclear if this pressure directly influenced Textron’s decision, or if it was a knock-on effect of the pressure applied to the White House.

Despite this, the decision does not represent a definitive end to US cluster bomb use, as they could simply contract another manufacturer should they desire more of these weapons.