“Explosive Weapon Effect” report published

A research report which seeks to describe and explain key types of explosive weapons and their destructive effects on humans and structures was published earlier this month by the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD). The aim of this research is to contribute to the ongoing discussions on explosive weapons in populated areas, intended to reduce harm to civilians. 

Explosive Weapon Effects” contains the final report of a two-year study, five annexed explosive weapons studies and a terminology paper. A simulator software tool will soon support the report. The research is intended to reduce collateral harm to civilians by making a substantial contribution to the ongoing discussions on explosive weapons in population-dense areas.


The report reviews five weapons systems: the 122 mm BM-21 Multi-Barrel Rocket Launcher (MBRL); 155 mm Artillery Gun; 120 mm Mortar; 120 mm Tank Gun; and Mk 82 Aircraft Bomb, all used in today’s conflict zones, in populated areas and widely stockpiled. It assesses their effects, their accuracy and precision, and characteristics of use.

The GICHD report discusses ways of mitigating each of these weapons’ impact on civilians, encourages further research on explosive weapons, and supports efforts by those in the international community who would like to improve their understanding of the ramifications of using explosive weapons in populated areas.

The GICHD stresses that: “This research does not enter into the moral or legal implications of using explosive weapon systems in populated areas, but rather examines their characteristics, effects and use from a technical perspective.” It can be read in full here but here is its conclusion:

“In conclusion, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas have resulted in numerous civilian deaths and injuries. In addition to the human cost, the case studies confirm substantial damage to essential infrastructure, homes and businesses. The effects of the detonation of high explosive munitions are intensified when this occurs in enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces such as buildings, tunnels, narrow streets or vehicles. This will result in a higher proportion of fatalities than would be likely in open spaces. In line with UNIDIR’s recent findings, this report calls for research to better understand, quantify and prepare for the various effects of secondary fragmentation, debris and other potentially deadly sources of hazard in populated areas.”

Next month the GICHD is planning to release a simulator which demonstrates the effects of the five explosive weapons systems examined in the research project. It combines the generated raw data from the research project with the accuracy and effects parameters from recognised sources, and it places these in simulated scenarios.

The user will be able to analyse the principal damage mechanism – i.e. the primary and secondary effects of explosive weapons – in an open area, hamlet, village, town and city.