Submunitions include bomblets, grenades, and mines filled with explosives or chemical agents. They may be antipersonnel, antimateriel, antitank, dual-purpose, incendiary, or chemical submunitions. Submunitions are typically spread over a large area by dispensers, missiles, rockets, or projectiles. Each of these delivery systems disperses the submunitions while still in flight, scattering the submunitions over an area.
Submunitions are activated in a variety of ways, depending on their intended use. Some are activated by pressure, impact, or movement or disturbance. Others are activated in flight or when they come near metallic objects. Some submunitions contain a self-destruct fuze as a backup. The self-destruct time can vary from a couple of hours to several days. Submunitions are extremely hazardous because even very slight disturbances can cause them to explode.
Some types of submunitions require stabilization to hit the target straight on. Stabilization can be provided through an arming ribbon, parachute, or fin assembly.
US Air Dispensed Submunitions
Submunitions are classified as either bomblets, grenades, or mines. They are small explosive-filled or chemical-filled items designed for saturation coverage of a large area. They may be antipersonnel (APERS), antimateriel (AMAT), antitank (AT), dual-purpose (DP), incendiary, or chemical. Submunitions may be spread by dispensers, missiles, rockets, or projectiles. Each of these delivery systems disperses its payload of submunitions while still in flight, and the submunitions drop over the target. On the battlefield, submunitions are widely used in both offensive and defensive missions.
Submunitions are used to destroy an enemy in place (impact) or to slow or prevent enemy movement away from or through an area (area denial). Impact submunitions go off when they hit the ground. Area-denial submunitions, including FASCAM, have a limited active life and self-destruct after their active life has expired. The major difference between scatterable mines and placed mines is that the scatterable mines land on the surface and can be seen. Placed mines may be hidden or buried under the ground and usually cannot be seen.
The Vietnam War saw limited use of Lazy Dog, effectively a barrel of nails. A steel projectile shaped like a conventional bomb but only about 1" long and 3/8" diameter (the size of bullets). A piece of sheet metal was folded to make the fins and welded to the rear of the projectile. These were dumped from aircraft onto enemy troops and had the same effect as a machine gun fired vertically. Bodies were penetrated longitudinally from shoulder to lower abdomen. The submunitions had enough velocity to impact a human body with enough force to kill. With the fins, they would fall straight and wouldn't tumble. They would reach a high enough terminal velocity to be lethal.
The ball-type submunitions are APERS. They are very small and are delivered on known concentrations of enemy personnel, scattered across an area. Like a land mine, it will not blow up until pressure is put on it.
The APERS submunition can be delivered by aircraft or by artillery. When it hits the ground, a small fragmentation ball shoots up and detonates about 6 feet above the ground. The area-denial APERS submunitions (FASCAM) are delivered into areas for use as mines. When they hit the ground, trip wires kick out up to 20 feet from the mine. All area-denial submunitions use antidisturbance fuzing with self-destruct fuzing as a backup. The self-destruct time can vary from a couple of hours to as long as several days.
The AMAT and/or AT submunitions are designed to destroy hard targets such as vehicles and equipment. They are dispersed from an aircraft-dropped dispenser and function when they hit a target or the ground. Drogue parachutes stabilize these submunitions in flight so they hit their targets straight on. The submunitions are also used to destroy hard targets such as vehicles and equipment. The only difference is that the fin assembly stabilizes the submunition instead of the drogue parachute.
AT area-denial submunitions can be delivered by aircraft, artillery, and even some engineer vehicles. These FASCAMs all have magnetic fuzing. They will function when they receive a signal from metallic objects. These submunitions, similar to the APERS area-denial submunitions, also have antidisturbance and self-destruct fuzing. AT and APERS area-denial mines are usually found deployed together.
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