The CBU-105 Cluster Bomb from deployment to destruction of target (Source: Nation States)In a move contrary to current world trends and certain to raise the ire of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, South Korea is avidly pursuing the acquisition of US-made CBU-105 Cluster Munitions to deploy with the ROK Air Force between 2014 and 2017:

The Air Force will purchase CBU-105 sensor fuzed weapons (SFW) next year, one of the most lethal and advanced cluster bombs from the United States, multiple sources said Tuesday.

A National Assembly official said the government has set aside 236 billion won ($205 million) for the procurement of some 350 CBU-105s in an attempt to boost the country’s deterrence against North Korea’s tanks and armored vehicles.

“The Assembly is expected to approve 2.7 billion won, a down payment to seal a deal with the Pentagon in 2013 for the precision cluster-bomb acquisition through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program,” the source at the parliamentary defense committee said on condition of anonymity.

She added that the Air Force will start to receive the U.S.-made “smart” cluster bombs that incorporate wind corrected munitions dispensers (WCMD) technology that steers the munitions to precise targets from 2014 and complete the acquisition in 2017.

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.

Rep. Song Young-sun of the Future Hope Alliance noted that the deployment of the CBU-105s will significantly improve the military’s capability to destroy enemy combat vehicles at an early stage of an armed conflict.

“Following North Korea’s two deadly attacks last year, South Korea has been actively seeking to introduce some of the best precision guided missiles and bombs to pinpoint targets and preempt enemy attacks when necessary,” the two-term lawmaker of the defense committee said.

She noted that Seoul is seeking to add 150 GBU-28 laser-guided bunker-busting bombs, stealth cruise missiles, Low-cost Guided Imaging Rockets and many other precision munitions to its weapons list.

Song pointed out that having CBU-105s in its arsenal will help allow South Korea to have a clear advantage over the North’s Army that is believed to have more than 4,100 tanks and 2,100 armored vehicles.

According to a Defense White Paper, the South only has about 2,400 tanks and 2,600 armored vehicles as of November 2010.

A senior official at the Defense Acquisition Program Administration said that his agency has pushed the CBU-105 acquisition project since 2007 with an aim to replace all of the country’s CBU-87 and MK20 Rockeye cluster bombs by 2017.

The use of cluster bombs, including CBU-87s and MK20s, has been viewed as unethical and they have often been regarded as weapons of mass destruction as most of them cannot be used for precision attacks.

“Unlike the two cluster bombs, the CBU 105 was designed to minimize civilian damage with an unexploded-ordnance rate of less than one percent,” he said.

He added that if the CBU 105 fails to find a target, it self-destructs 15 meters above the ground to prevent possible civilian causalities in the future.

Bomblets inside conventional cluster bombs often fail to explode, becoming anti-personnel landmines that remain unexploded for a long time until someone stumbles on them. The dud rate of many cluster bombs is believed to be more than a five percent.

A study of the humanitarian pressure group Handicap International shows that cluster bombs have killed or maimed more than 11,000 people in 24 countries and regions that it surveyed. Of them nearly 98 percent were civilians. (Source: The Korea Times)

While no doubt a controversial weapon in the current world’s eye, these munitions would be extremely effective in decimating North Korean armor, and are still quite modern technology, having first been deployed by the US during the Second Iraq War.

The world may worry about these munitions remaining after the battles have been fought and the potential harming of civilian populations, but as a nation “at war,” that’s not something South Korea has the luxury of pondering at this time. Considering the amount of cluster munitions being stockpiled in the region, South Korea is just following Asian trends.

This author does have a minor worry that as the ROK “Americanizes” its military with weapons that many nations see as “terror weapons” that they could end up tarnishing their world image and looking little better than the North, but realizes it would probably take a GREAT deal to look worse than North Korea.

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Craig was born & raised in the United States, having recently returned there after over five years in Asia. He is currently pursuing further education in the realms of East Asian Studies and Politics. Craig is an avid fan of the political, economic, and military machinations occurring throughout the Asian continent and how those turning gears affect the rest of the world. He's currently covering both North and South Korea for Asia Security Watch, enjoying shedding light on to this far-too-often ignored slice of Asia.
Craig Scanlan has 82 post(s) on Asia Security Watch