According to two US politicians, Ukraine has expanded its request for cluster bombs from the US. The country is now seeking the MK-20, an air-delivered cluster bomb, which it intends to modify in order to release the anti-armor bomblets it contains from drones and drop them on Russian forces. Representatives Jason Crow and Adam Smith, who are both members of the House of Representatives armed services committee, confirmed that Ukraine has already requested 155mm artillery cluster shells.
However, it is important to note that cluster munitions are banned in over 120 countries as they are known to cause indiscriminate harm to civilians by releasing smaller bomblets over a wide area. Despite Ukraine’s urging of Congress members to push for the White House’s approval of the weapons, it remains uncertain whether the Biden administration will give the green light.
During last month’s Munich Security Conference, Ukrainian officials reportedly urged the US to pressure the White House into approving their request for cluster munitions. Ukraine is hoping that these weapons will provide an advantage in their ongoing conflict against Russian forces in the east of the country.
While the Ukrainian government has publicly expressed a desire for US cluster munitions, their specific request for the MK-20, also referred to as CBU-100s, has not been previously reported.
A spokeswoman for the National Security Council stated that while Ukraine and the White House maintain close coordination on military aid, there are no new capabilities to announce. The politicians explained that Ukraine is seeking artillery rounds to counter the “human wave” attacks that Russian forces have employed in their efforts to capture the devastated city of Bakhmut.
The MK-20 is an air-delivered cluster bomb that opens in mid-flight, releasing more than 240 dart-like submunitions, or bomblets. Each shell is capable of dispersing 88 of these submunitions.
According to Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the armed services committee, the Ukrainian military believes that these submunitions have better armor-piercing capabilities than the weapons they have been using from drones. Ukraine, which is facing an enemy with superior manpower and weaponry, has been relying heavily on drones for surveillance and dropping explosives on Russian forces.
While production of the MK-20s ended years ago, the US military still retains a stockpile of these Cold War-era weapons. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who participated in the Munich Security Conference last month, confirmed that Ukrainian officials urged US legislators to press the White House to provide Kyiv with cluster munitions. Graham said that he would do so this week
Jason Crow, a Democrat, and US Army veteran stated that he might support providing the MK-20 to Ukraine with assurances that the country would remove the bomblets and use them in non-cluster employment.
The congressional aide revealed that Ukrainian officials have been privately lobbying legislators in Washington to press for White House approval, in addition to their efforts at the Munich Security Conference.
“That’s not going to happen,” Mr. Smith said, referring to Biden administration approval.