American fighter jets dropped four unarmed bombs into Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest network of coral structures, last week when a training exercise went wrong, the U.S. Navy said.

The jets intended to drop the bombs into a bombing range, but canceled the mission when the area was not clear of dangers. The pilots jettisoned the ordinances because they were low on fuel and could not land with the bomb load, the Navy said.

Environmentalists were furious with the move. A spokesman for the fleet responsible did not immediately respond to requests by The Guardian for a statement on the dumping’s environmental impact.

Australian Sen. Larissa Waters, a spokeswoman for the Great Barrier Reef, described the unloading of bombs in such an environmentally sensitive area as “outrageous” and said it should not be permitted.

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

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Associated Press via The Guardian:

The two AV-8B Harrier jets, launched from the 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 US 7th Fleet said in a statement on Saturday. The four bombs, weighing a total 1.8 metric tons (4,000 pounds), were dropped into more than 50 meters (164ft) of water, away from coral, to minimize possible damage to the reef, the statement said. None exploded.

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