RBL755 supply withdrawn from use, as RAF prepares to field MBDA's Brimstone missile

The UK Ministry of Defence has followed up on its February commitment to prohibit the use of "dumb" cluster munitions by 2008 by removing the Royal Air Force's air-launched BL755 and RBL755 weapons from service with immediate effect.

The MoD says its current BL/RBL755 inventory comprises 3,650 dispensers with 147 bomblets each, representing a need to dispose of almost 540,000 submunitions. The UK last used the system in early 2003 during the combat phase of the second Iraq war, and will replace the type with its new MBDA Brimstone air-launched anti-armour weapon, which will soon enter service with its upgraded BAE Systems Harrier GR9/9A ground-attack aircraft.

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The RBL755 cluster bomb (far left and right) was last used in 2003 in Iraq

A contract was awarded to the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency in late January to dispose of "a significant quantity" of the RAF's BL/RBL755 weapons, with this work scheduled to be completed by late 2010. The air-launched cluster bombs are not believed to be deployed to support coalition operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Announcing the accelerated retirement of the stockpile last week, UK secretary of state for defence Des Browne said: "From now on our armed forces will only use cluster munitions with features like self-destruct mechanisms that reduce the risk of harm to civilians."

The UK was among 47 nations to sign an accord to prohibit the use of "cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm" after attending the Norwegian initiative conference in Oslo during February. The British Army will be required to dispose of almost 28 million cluster weapon submunitions used by its Multiple-Launch Rocket System.


Source: Flight International