Aerial of the Great Barrier Reef.
Aerial of the Great Barrier Reef. C Veron

US Military answers questions about bombs dropped on reef

As questions continued to mount about the dropping of four bombs into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park near Townshend Island, the US military issued the following Q&A

Q. Is there a hazard to navigation?

A. The ordnance is 50-60 metres deep and at that depth there is no hazard to navigation or shipping.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority statement below:

"The impacts on the environment are negligible ... two were filled with concrete and two with explosives, they weren't armed and they were essentially inert. It was well away from any sensitive habitat. It wasn't an area in the marine national park zone and it wasn't a trawling zone."

Q. How will this event impact the environment?

A. Gist of Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority statement:

"The incident is deemed to be low risk to the marine environment.

A high priority is to continue to work with the Department of Defence to identify options for rapid recovery of the ordnances.

"The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is a multiple-use marine protected area, and Defence training is one of the legitimate uses of the park."

Q. Is the Navy planning to recover the bombs?

A. The Australian and US governments are currently reviewing this possibility.

Q. Is the ordnance within a World Heritage Area?

A. The inert and unexploded ordnance is inside the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Q. Can you describe the bombs?

A. The BDU 45 is an inert training bomb weighing 500lbs. It is about 5ft long and 10 inches wide. The GBU 12 is a 500lb laser-guided bomb, about 11ft long and 11 inches wide. The GBU 12s were not fused and jettisoned in their safe state.

Q. Could one of the two live bombs eventually explode?

A. The chance of explosion is unlikely since the fusing mechanism is not in place.

Talking with explosive ordnance experts, it is virtually impossible for it to explode.

Q. Was there negligence involved?

A. Safety of personnel and the environment are our top priorities. We are reviewing the situation in consultation with Australian authorities.

Q. Is there an investigation under way?

A. Yes.

Q. What is the Townshend Island Range, and who owns and operates it?

A. The range is owned and operated by the Australian Defence Force.

Q. Have you issued any navigation notice now?

A. We are coordinating with Australian officials to ensure an appropriate navigation notice is issued.

Q. Was this part of Exercise Talisman Saber 2013?

A. No. The training event occurred prior to the start of TS-13 and was a unit level event in coordination with the ADF.

Q. How will the event affect TS-13?

A. Talisman Saber 13 is continuing as planned.

Q. Why were civilian boats in bomb dropping area?

A. We are unsure why boats were in the area, however safety to life is our most important priority therefore range authorities decided not to drop the bombs.

Q. Was the warning sent out to boat operators etc excluding them from the area? A. That is the standard procedure.

Q. Whose responsibility is it to ensure there are no civilians or civilian vessels in the drop zone?

A. Please refer question to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

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