Joint Australian and US search locates ordnance

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Topic(s): HMAS Gascoyne (M85)

Members of HMAS Gascoyne's ship's company inspect a nautical chart with a member of the United States Navy after finding four unexploded bombs.  (photo: )
Members of HMAS Gascoyne's ship's company inspect a nautical chart with a member of the United States Navy after finding four unexploded bombs.

HMAS Gascoyne is working with the United States Navy to retrieve four unexploded bombs from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, dropped by USN Harrier aircraft in the lead up to Exercise TALISMAN SABRE on 16 July 2013.

The RAN is now working with the USN to retrieve the ordnance.

The Royal Australian Navy minehunter HMAS Gascoyne located all the ordnance on 16 August 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.

Members of HMAS Gascoyne's Mine Warfare Department search for unexploded bombs in North Queensland.

Members of HMAS Gascoyne's Mine Warfare Department search for unexploded bombs in North Queensland.

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 60m to 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.”

Commanding Officer Gascoyne, Lieutenant Commander Aaron Cox, praised his crew for its efforts to locate the bombs.

“This excellent result would not have been possible but for the professionalism and flexibility of the Officers and Sailors of Gascoyne, in particular our Mine Warfare department.”

“This is another example of the versatility of Mine Countermeasure platforms like Gascoyne, and it shows the ability of the RAN, and USN, to work together at short notice” he said.

The US-led recovery and disposal timeline is now dependent on weather conditions and environmental considerations.

The Australian Defence Force will to continue to provide direct support to the US-led effort and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

The recovery effort includes assets from the US Navy Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit Five and airlift provided by the US Air Force.