Monday, July 22, 2013
Two U.S. Navy jets dropped four bombs on Australia's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park July 16 in a training exercise mishap.
According to the Associated Press, two AV-8B Harrier jets were taking part in a live fire exercise and planned to drop the bombs in a practice range area. That plan had to be aborted when unauthorized civilian boats entered the practice range.
The jets were running low on fuel, and would not have been able to land with the bombs on board. BBC News reports the jets were forced to unload the bombs on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Fortunately, none of the bombs exploded.
U.S. Navy 7th Fleet spokesman Commander William Marks told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:
"There is minimal environmental impact. It is a safe situation for the environment, for shipping, for navigation."
While the Navy insists the bombs don't pose a threat to the environmentally-sensitive reef, National Geographic calls the mishap "an insult to a delicate ecosystem." World Wildlife Fund-Australia's Richard Leck told NationalGeographic.com:
"We need to know why it happened. There's an enormous amount of threats around the reef ... and having more threats occur in this form is certainly the last thing the reef needs."
The two AV-8B Harrier jets were participating in a joint training exercise between the U.S. and Australian militaries called Talisman Saber. The exercise started July 15 and lasts until August 2.