Two U.S. fighter jets dropped four bombs on Australia's Great Barrier Reef last week when a training exercise went wrong, the U.S. Navy said Saturday.
The jets were going to drop the bombs at a bombing range nearby, but had to abort the mission when the pilots were told the area couldn't be cleared for hazards. The pilots were then apparently forced to conduct the emergency jettison in the Great Barrier Reef because the plane wasn't able to land with the bomb load and was running low on fuel.
Two of the bombs had the potential to be explosive, but were disarmed before they were dumped, and the other two were inert. None exploded.
According to the Navy's statement, the four bombs, weighing about 4,000 pounds in total, were dropped as far away from the coral as possible, in order to minimize damage to the reef.
But environmentalists were furious at the American military's mistake. Australian Sen. Larissa Water called the act "outrageous," saying it should definitely be illegal.
"Have we gone completely mad?" she told the press. "Is this how we look after our World Heritage area now? Letting a foreign power drop bombs on it?"
The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest network of coral structures and is a habitat for many nearly-extinct animals. It stretches for nearly 2,000 miles along Australia's northeast coast and is protected as a World Heritage Site.