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This issue is currently being examined from political, legal, socio-economic and humanitarian perspectives. The GICHD has undertaken research to provide a technical perspective on the destructive effects of selected explosive weapons to inform the international debate.
It seeks to provide clarity concerning the immediate physical effects and terminology used when discussing explosive weapons.
The project is guided by a group of experts dealing with weapons-related research and practitioners who address the implications of explosive weapons in humanitarian, policy, advocacy and legal fields.
Whilst they carry out similar functions when used in populated areas as when they are employed elsewhere, the impact of their use may differ.
Indeed, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas has resulted in significant civilian deaths and injuries. In addition to the human cost, our case studies confirm substantial damage to essential infrastructure, homes and businesses.
The research focuses on the inherent technical characteristics of the explosive weapon systems studied and their use in populated areas, examining both the methods and means of warfare. It draws on five technical studies on explosive weapon systems, each of which assesses a common type of weapon system present in contemporary conflict zones.
The weaponry covered was chosen on the basis of its ubiquity, notoriety, widespread stockpiling and use in populated areas. The five weapon systems reviewed are mm multi-barrel rocket launchers, mm mortars, mm artillery guns, mm tank guns and the Mk 82 aircraft bomb.
Effects of high explosive munitions in populated areas The Mk 82 aircraft bomb and mm rockets were found to have the widest area effect, although mortar and artillery projectiles were both responsible for single-munition explosions resulting in double-figure casualties.
Of the weapons covered in the study, tank munitions were often found to have a more limited lethal area than others. Whilst there are measures the user can take to adjust the effects of an explosive weapon in terms of the way it functions, many systems such as multi-barrel rocket launchers produce design-dependent effects intended to cause widespread destruction.
The effects of high explosive munitions within populated areas are influenced substantially by the presence of built structures and geographical features. Vehicles, housing, commercial property, factories, schools, hospitals, etc. Buildings and vehicles contribute glass, rubble and other debris to the fragmentation originating from the weapon.
The intuitive reflex among humans to seek shelter from an explosive weapon attack in buildings, vehicles, narrow streets, tunnels and similar enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces poses a lethal risk.
Besides the reflecting blast waves in such spaces, the intensification of the weapon effects occurs due to the presence of a large number of people and structures within the effective range of a munition sas well as sources of secondary fragmentation.
This results in a higher proportion of fatalities than would be likely in open spaces. Humans are particularly vulnerable to blast overpressure and reflected blast waves. Surviving an explosive weapon attack with only surface bruises visible does not exclude ruptured eardrums, damaged lungs, internal bleeding, brain damage, infections and poisoning, and bone fracturing.
Depending on the layout of structures in a populated area and type of explosive weapon used in an attack, the probability of survival for a human may increase when away from the proximity of structures prone on the ground in a small depression or narrow ditch.
Inherent accuracy and precision of the studied weapon systems The accuracy and precision of the explosive weapon systems reviewed differ significantly, with tank guns and guided aircraft bombs being capable of use in an accurate and precise direct fire function when certain conditions are met.
Artillery gun and mortar systems are capable of a relatively high level of accuracy in an indirect fire function. However, due to the lower precision inherent in their design, projectiles are typically spread over a wide area which increases with the distance to the target. Unguided artillery rockets are generally neither accurate nor precise.
The level of accuracy and precision can be unpredictable and inconsistent with any of the weapon systems studied, owing to factors such as the level of operator training, alignment and sighting of the weapon, the quality control of munitions, weapon maintenance and the practical experience of the firer in using the weapon in varying terrain and weather conditions.
Most indirect fire systems used in conflicts of today are incapable of achieving the high degree of accuracy required to hit a small point target with the first round. Characteristic use of explosive weapons and measures to control their impact There are measures the user can take to adjust the wide area effects of explosive weapons.
Competent target analysis and approval procedure, positive target identification, evaluation of the immediate physical environment and the selection of the most accurate and precise weapon available to the user are key factors in reducing collateral harm.
As a general rule, armed forces should possess thorough knowledge of the dynamic effects of the munitions in their inventories and should be able to predict fairly accurately the extent of these effects in open terrain.
However, there is less awareness of the effects of use in built-up areas.part of the dg education and culture study on the cooperation between higher education institutions and public and private organisations in europe 30 good practice case studies in university-business cooperation european commission directorate-general for education and culture.
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