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The Pilots are Fine, Thanks

A U.S./Australian joint military exercise went slightly awry the other day. Marine pilots ‘bombed” The Great Barrier Reef — hysteria ensued.

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 in a statement Saturday.

The four bombs, weighing a total 1.8 metric tons (4,000 pounds), were dropped into more than 50 meters (164 feet) of water away from coral to minimize possible damage to the reef, the statement said. 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.

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps were working with Australian authorities to investigate the incident, the Navy said.

A 7th Fleet spokesman did not immediately respond on Sunday when asked by email whether the dumping posed any environmental risk.

Australian Sen. Larissa Waters, the influential Greens party’s spokeswoman on the Great Barrier Reef, described the dumping of bombs in such an environmentally sensitive area as “outrageous” and said it should not be allowed.

“Have we gone completely mad?” she told Australian Broadcasting Corp. “Is this how we look after our World Heritage area now? Letting a foreign power drop bombs on it?”

To answer Senator Waters’ first question… “We” have not gone mad. “You” have.

10 comments to The Pilots are Fine, Thanks

  • Not to mention that a training bomb is nothing more than metal and concrete with maybe a small marking charge so you can see where it hits.

    There is probably a lot of stuff in the ocean that she doesn’t know about like that…for instance half the Japanese Air Force from WWII.

  • Dr. Schplatt

    As a diver, I’m not thrilled with this and really wish things had been planned better. As a realist, I know that accidents happen and I’d rather they dump their ordinance than run out of fuel and die. It’s a shame it happened all the same.

  • Daniel

    I might forgive them, for a moment at least, for not understanding what a “practice bomb” is, but what part of “unarmed” don’t these fools understand?!

    And when it comes to the reef, it was around well before anyone ever stepped foot on Australia, and it will be around long after all these Mother Earth worshiping nitwits are gone.

    • Dr. Schplatt

      I know the environmental nut jobs can be a bit annoying, but having spent a lot of time diving on reefs, this kind of stuff can do quite a bit of damage and the damage it does can destroy 100 years of growth. So I totally understand why they were upset. I too am upset it happened, but not to the extent these people are. I really do wish the military had planned things out a bit better and I hope they’ll do things different in the future. Do I want the two guys to die? No, of course not. Drop the bombs if it’s your only choice, but next time I hope they plan better.

      • It was planned, things went awry. Reefs ain’t people.

        • Dr. Schplatt

          Never said they were people. I’m perfectly fine with the pilots doing what they need to do to stay safe, but I would hope the military does something different next time so that they don’t have to drop a few tons of steel on something that takes 100 years to grow. It’s a shame it had to happen and maybe in the future it can be avoided.

          • -fritz-

            The article does say the dummies were not dropped on the coral but in deeper water so as to not damage the coral. It was in the preserve, but away from the coral.

  • -fritz-

    Possibly only a few Box Jellyfish, poisonous sea snakes and a few Great White sharks were taken out. On a grander scale, I’d say a much better result than a non-problematic ozone hole over Antarctica! :snark:

  • Daniel

    Maybe it was really a secret government mission at preempting “Sharknado 2″ … Oops … Guess not.

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