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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The Japan-based U.S. 7th Fleet will “take the lead” on retrieving four bombs dropped within a deepwater area of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Navy officials said Friday.

Australian authorities will assist in recovery of the 500-pound bombs, which two Marine AV-8B Harrier jets jettisoned into about 180 feet of water on July 16, according to Navy statements.

No decisions have been finalized on exactly when the Navy will attempt the recovery, and which sailors will be sent to do it, a 7th Fleet spokesman said Friday.

“We are fully committed to redressing any potential adverse environmental impact in a timely manner,” the Navy said in a statement Friday.

The jets, which are participating in the biannual Talisman Saber exercise with the Australian military, had intended to drop the bombs at Townshend Island Range, about 450 miles north of Brisbane along the Queensland coast.

When a civilian vessel was reported within the range boundaries, the jets were forced to drop the bombs about 18 miles south of Bell Cay, away from the coral reef, according to a Navy statement.

The bomb weight taxed the Harriers’ fuel supplies, and the planes would not have been able to land properly with the bombs still attached, Navy officials said.

Earlier this week, Vice Adm. Scott Swift told Stars and Stripes that the site was chosen to minimize damage to the environment and disruption to shipping lanes.


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