August 12, 2005

Near miss by U.S. fighter in Australian exercise

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Bombing practice in a joint
Australia-U.S. military exercise were suspended after an
American fighter jet almost bombed a building on a weapons
range in Australia's remote north, officials said on Friday.

Australia's Defense Minister Robert Hill said that a bomb
from a U.S. Marine Corp F/A-18 Hornet missed its target and
landed near a building at the Delamere weapons range, causing
some damage but no injuries.

"We certainly regard it as a serious incident. But these
things do occur in military training with live ammunition,"
Hill told reporters in the northern city of Darwin.

Australia's defense department said all bombing operations
had been suspended for the 2005 exercise, but gave no details
of the incident.

Hill, however, said some people were inside the building on
the weapons range. "I don't know the size of the bomb," he

"What I do know is what occurred wasn't supposed to have
occurred. The case is being treated very seriously by us and
the Americans. It will be thoroughly investigated and we will
ensure it doesn't occur again."

About 500 military personnel, 15 F/A-18 Hornets and two
KC-130 Hercules aircraft from Australia and U.S. Marine Corp
aviation units based in Japan are holding their annual Southern
Frontier exercise at the remote Delamere weapons range, about
250 miles south of Darwin.

During the same exercise in September 2004, a U.S. Marine
Corp F/A-18 Hornet crashed in an unpopulated area. The pilot
ejected safely and was unhurt.