Democrats move to restrict use or sale of weapons

The US Air Force's inventory of air-dropped cluster munitions would decline to only one type if Congress passes a proposal to restrict the use and export of such weapons, a senior air force official revealed last week.

Col Gary Mausolf, chief of air force weapons requirements, said Senate Bill 594 would "severely restrict" the use of any cluster weapon that has a reliability rating of less than 99%. The only current weapon that meets that standard is the Textron CBU-97 Sensor Fuzed Weapon, he added.

"If that motion goes forward and becomes law, we'll have to do some scrambling to address that," said Mausolf, who addressed the Precision Strike Association's Annual Programs Review in Springfield, Virginia on 25 April.

Democrat senators Dianne Feinstein and Patrick Leahy introduced the bill on 14 February, with the proposal seeking to restrict the use and export of any cluster bomb with less than a 99% reliability rating unless certain conditions are met. To meet the bill's criteria, any munition besides the CBU-97 could only be sold or exported if the buyer agrees to use them against "clearly defined military targets", and only where no civilians are normally found.

The bill would allow the Bush administration to approve waivers for the sale or export of cluster munitions, but would require the buyer to submit a report within 30 days of employing such weapons. This would detail how any unexploded bomblets would be retrieved, whether these incorporate a self-destruct mechanism, failure rate data and measures taken to protect civilians.

International pressure to ban the use of so-called "dumb" cluster munitions has increased following the Norwegian initiative conference held in Oslo last February, with the UK Ministry of Defence having already retired the Royal Air Force's remaining stockpile of BL/RBL755 weapons (Flight International, 27 March-2 April).

Source: Flight International