On Wednesday, March 14, at 4 pm, an Iraqi Airways Boeing 747 jumbo jet took off from Santiago’s Comodoro Arturo Merino Benitez Airport reportedly loaded with “thousands” of 500-pound cluster bombs. The Iraqis apparently bought the bombs from the Chilean firm Industrias Cardoen SA. Cardoen had been displaying its various military wares at the annual International Air Fair (Feria Internacional del Aire, FIDA-84), which was held March 3-11 at the El Bozque Air Base in the Santiago community of San Bernando.
The Iraqi jet had arrived in Santiago the previous day, March 13, without commercial passengers. According to Chilean press accounts, a purchasing team of ten to 12 persons attended the air fair “privately.” Chilean airport control officer Juan di Solminihac said only that all legal requirements for the 747’s entry had been fulfilled and that “they say” the Iraqis were loading ordnance.
Cardoen had displayed its cluster bombs — it produces both a 100-pound and a 500-pound version — at the FIDA exposition. Its catalogue boasts that “despite bitter competition” the firm had contracted to sell “some thousands” of the larger model cluster bombs to “a Near Eastern country.” Cardoen claims its 500-pound bomb, which is similar to the US-made Rockeye model except for its plastic tail fins, sells for 60 percent less than either the Rockeye or the British-made BL 755, and 80 percent less than the French-made Belouga. Its reinforced fiberglas-plastic outer shell contains 300 pellets weighing 740 grams and measuring 48 mm by 360 mm each. According to Jane’s Weapons Systems 1983-84, the Cardoen 500-pound bombs can cover a 6,000 square meter area with anti-personnel and anti-armor shrapnel.
Cardoen acknowledged to Chilean reporters that Iraqi representatives had “made contact” with the firm, but refused to confirm or deny any purchase or contract details.
At the close of FIDA-84, Air Force Commander and junta member General Fernando Matthei Aubel expressed the hope that next year’s fair will include even more Chilean war materiel for international markets. Matthei predicted that such an exposition would attract military officials from all over the Americas, Africa and the Third World.
Other countries besides Chile which manufacture cluster bombs are the US, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, France, West Germany and Yugoslavia. Under the terms of the US-Israeli “strategic accord” signed in Washington last November, Washington is supplying Israel with the licenses and technical information to produce cluster bombs in Israel.