What is UXO?


Image of a 3 Inch Mortar

Unexploded ordnance (UXO) is any sort of military ammunition or explosive which has failed to explode as intended. It includes sea mines or shells used by the Navy, mortar bombs, mines, artillery shells or hand grenades used by the Army; bombs, rockets or missiles used by the Air Force; and many other types of ammunition and explosives including training munitions.

Military ammunition is designed to explode at the time it is used, but for a variety of reasons some of it fails to do so.

This does not mean it is not dangerous.

If disturbed, (touched, picked up, played with, kicked, thrown, etc) UXO may explode without warning. Any item of UXO that is found must not be handled by members of the public.

Where has it come from?

In Australia, UXO contamination has arisen mainly as a result of military training activities. In the past large numbers of ranges and training areas were approved for use in many areas of Australia. As a result, there are now a number of sites around Australia which are affected by UXO.

Image of Military artillery personnel in action Many areas within Australia have been used for military training since European settlement. During World War 2, when Australia was fighting for its survival against invasion, thousands of Australian and Allied personnel trained here in preparation for operations in New Guinea and the South West Pacific. In addition, numerous bases were established to support military operations and strikes against the Japanese.

Camp sites and training areas were located throughout the country with firing ranges established for artillery, tank, infantry and aircraft live firing and bombing practices.

With such a large number of military personnel within Australia there is ongoing potential for discarded and unexploded ordnance to be located in the vicinity of these areas. In this case very little handling may be needed to make the item of ammunition go off. This ammunition is known as Unexploded Ordnance (UXO).

It is important that anyone finding an item of ammunition or unexploded ordnance does not touch it as it may explode and kill them.

The size or shape of any item of ammunition does not indicate its potential danger. Quite small items can kill and maim if handled. It must be remembered that explosives are unstable compounds that become more sensitive as they age.