AUSTRALIA

US jets drop four unarmed bombs on Great Barrier Reef

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 July, 2013, 9:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 July, 2013, 3:58am
AFP

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US fighter jets dropped four unarmed bombs on Australia's Great Barrier Reef in an "emergency jettison" during a training exercise, officials said yesterday, ruling out any risk to the public or environment.

The US 7th Fleet said two Harrier aircraft dropped the bombs on the iconic reef's marine park off the Queensland coast on Tuesday.

"The selected emergency jettison area was in a deep channel away from the reef to minimise the possibility of reef damage," the US 7th Fleet said.

"It is approximately 50 to 60 metres deep and does not pose a hazard to shipping or navigation."

An Australian Defence Force spokesman said the bombs posed "minimal risk or threat to the public, the marine environment or civilian shipping transiting the reef area".

He added: "Defence is working closely with the US military, the Australian government and environmental organisations to ensure there is no danger... now or in the future."

Graeme Dunstan, who is among the environmentalists and anti-war activists demonstrating against the joint exercise, said the mishap proved that the US military could not be trusted to protect the environment.

"How can they protect the environment and bomb the reef at the same time? Get real," Dunstan said.

US and Australian officials are seeking to issue an appropriate navigation notice until charts can be updated showing the location of the unexploded ordnance.

The two AV-8B Harrier planes intended to drop the bombs on a range on a nearby island, but several attempts were unsuccessful. About 28,000 Australian and US military are involved in the three-week training exercise Talisman Saber in Queensland.