Cluster munitions, which break apart in flight to scatter hundreds of smaller bomblets, are what the International Committee of the Red Cross calls a "persistent humanitarian problem."

Most of a cluster bomb's bomblets are meant to explode on impact, but many do not. Estimates show the weapons fail to explode on impact between 10 and 40 percent of the time, the Red Cross says.


Can I replace the plural weapons with the singular to mean the type of weapon in this context?

Thanks in advance!
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The singular seems inconsistent here; the previous sentence uses the plural.
I would say no.

The "weapon" here is one "cluster bomb." The percentage of "weapons" which fail to explode on impact refers to the hundreds of smaller bomblets. Let's say one cluster bomb comprises 300 bomblets. Lets say that 25% of those bomblets do not explode. That means there are 75 bomblets lying around on the ground waiting for kids to accidently detonate them.

I don't know, N2g. I suppose technically you could, since the term "weapon" is not used in the sentence to refer to the cluster bomb, but only to the "bomblets." Yes, okay, go for it!

- A.
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I agree with Mister Micawber. Changing weapons to the singular would be inconsistent, since the previous sentence is plural.
Before your reply, I was quite certain the weapons referred to cluster bombs, not their bomblets. Could you help me understand why the weapons refer to the bomblets instead of the bombs themselves in this context?
"Most of a cluster bomb's bomblets are meant to explode on impact, but many do not." This sentence indicates that the author is talking about the bomb's bomblets, if I'm not mistaken.
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I wrote a whole bloody edit on that subject but they zapped it. Dang! CSO = cheerfully start over.
Avangi, I feel your pain. After experiencing that several times, I keep my edit short or just create a new post to avoid the problem though it may not be elegant. But it saves a lot of time Emotion: smile
"Cluster munitions, which break apart in flight to scatter hundreds of smaller bomblets" - You might say it "deploys." No doubt explosives are involved in scattering the bomblets.

The cluster bomb ceases to exist as a unit, long before any bomblets hit the ground. How many bomblets would have to explode to enable us to say "the cluster bomb exploded"? One? All 300? What would it mean to say the cluster bomb fails to explode 20% of the time?

When I read MrM's post, I wasn't sure if he was referring to "cluster munitions" or "bomblets" or both, when he spoke of the plural being used in the first sentence. I usually hear "cluster munitions" in the plural used to describe the class of weapons. Why plural, is debatable. In the second sentence we have "a cluster bomb . . "

If "cluster munitions" in plural can describe a class, then so can "weapons" in plural. I'm inclined to yield to MrM's point that to switch to singular would sound a little strange.

In my opinion there's no way to tell whether "weapons" in the last sentence refers to the class or the collection of bomblets - or if there's even a difference. I guess if you switch to singular, it would have to be the class. If I say, "Wild berries are usually not poisonous," is that a class??

- A.

Edit. Ah yes, Yoong, I believe you're right. Thanks. I must be more wary. (funny thing, I always say "accidently.")
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