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Plumes of Smoke at South Head in Kaipara Harbour

A P-3K2 Orion drops a 500lb bomb on to the sand dunes at the Kaipara Air Weapons Range

7 July 2016

Four plumes of smoke at South Head in Kaipara Harbour signalled the Royal New Zealand Air Force's (RNZAF) six-monthly live bomb drop this afternoon.

As part of a training exercise for the Air Force to qualify air and ground crews, an RNZAF P-3K2 Orion dropped five 500lbs (230kg) 'Mark 82' bombs on to sand dunes at the Kaipara Air Weapons Range.

One of these bombs failed to detonate, and forced the Orion to take a different route for the final two bombs because of the danger of a delayed explosion.

But SQNLDR Simon Eichelbaum, RNZAF's Public Affairs Officer, explained that it wasn't a failure.

"All of this is part of the training," he said.

The Mark 82 is a non-guided bomb used for anti-submarine warfare. "Essentially gravity seizes the weapon, brings it to the water and then it explodes," said FLTLT James Arnott-Steel.

Unlike in the field, the bombs were detonated on the dunes rather than in the water.

"Dropping it on the land allows us to see it explode. It gives us a lot of data. It also helps if it doesn't explode because then we can go out and get rid of the weapon," FLTLT Arnott-Steel said.

For those watching there was a slight pause between when the bombs landed and when the bombs detonated. This was expected however, because Mark 82s sink into the water before exploding to cause enemy submarines the maximum possible damage.

Despite the five bombs being dropped in less than an hour, the preparation behind the exercise was very intense.


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