US drops unarmed bombs on Great Barrier Reef

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Two American fighter jets dropped four unarmed bombs into Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park last week when a training exercise went wrong, the U.S. Navy said, angering environmentalists.

The two AV-8B Harrier jets launched from aircraft carrier USS Bonhomme Richard each jettisoned an inert practice bomb and an unarmed laser-guided explosive bomb into the World Heritage-listed marine park off the coast of Queensland state on Tuesday, the U.S. 7th Fleet said.

The four bombs, weighing a total 4,000 pounds, were dropped into more than 160 feet of water away from coral to minimize possible damage to the reef. None exploded.

The jets from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit had intended to drop the ordnances on the Townshend Island bombing range, but aborted the mission when controllers reported the area was not clear of hazards.

The pilots conducted the emergency jettison because they were low on fuel and could not land with their bomb load, the Navy said.

The emergency happened on the second day of the biennial joint training exercise Talisman Saber, which brings together 28,000 U.S. and Australian military personnel over three weeks.

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