U.S., Australian Navies Locate Bombs
The Royal Australian Navy (RAN), in conjunction with the U.S. Navy (USN), has successfully located four unexploded bombs dropped by USN Harrier aircraft in the lead up to Exercise Talisman Saber on July 16, 2013.
The RAN and USN are now working together to retrieve the ordnance.
The Royal Australian Navy minehunter HMAS Gascoyne located all the ordnance on August 16, 2013.
The USN and the RAN confirmed the coordinates of the ordnance through survey operations earlier this week and are currently working with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to commence the recovery of the ordnance.
RAN Chief of Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Ash Power, said the ordnance was found in a challenging underwater environment using HMAS Gascoyne’s variable depth sonar. The bombs were located well ahead of schedule and at a depth between 60-70m of water.
“HMAS Gascoyne has complied with all environmental regulations throughout the search and the bombs were positively identified using one of the minehunter’s remote operating vehicles,” Lieutenant General Power said.
“Our Navy personnel have done a great job to locate these items very quickly and now stand ready to assist the retrieval process by the United States vessel USS Germantown.”
“The ordnance retrieval was planned for the period following Exercise Talisman Saber and at no stage did the jettisoned ordnance pose a threat to the safety of people or the Great Barrier Reef.”
The U.S.-led recovery and disposal timeline is now dependant on weather conditions and environmental considerations.
The Australian Defense Force will to continue to provide direct support to the U.S.-led effort and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
The recovery effort includes assets from the U.S. Navy Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit Five and airlift provided by the U.S. Air Force.