The US air force has tested a new non-exploding fragmentation bomb, which it claims may be used as a "less-hazardous alternative" to cluster bombs. The BLU-136 Next Generation Area Attack Weapon is a 2,000 pound munition made of cast iron, which fragments better than steel, and contains a large number of "fragmentation packs" - steel cubes packed into the device. When the bomb explodes the shell and fragmentation packs produce a "cloud of deadly, but inert shrapnel" capable of cutting through people as well as light vehicles and structures. The military has signed a seven-year contract worth $600m with the US company Major Tool & Machine and Faxon Machining to produce up to 15,000 of the weapons.
Technology experts have described how this "new technology" is very similar to weapons designed in 1784, when Henry Shrapnel designed a shell made of cast iron and filled with gunpowder and musket balls. The shell was designed to explode in mid air, raining musket balls on the target.