The B-2 “Spirit” bombers are equipped with “low-observable stealth technology” deployed to Hawaii from as far away as Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. These military exercises called “Koa Lighting,” occasionally conducted in conjunction with the US Navy and Marines, often exceed 18 hours of continuous flight for the 6,880-nautical mile training missions.
According to a recent Associated Press article, “B-2 Stealth Bombers Hit US Targets,” (1) the aircraft fly 18,000 feet above the mountains over the main island of Hawaii. In September, the B-2s began monthly 2,000-pound bomb-dropping exercises on the Pohakuloa military range.
Although the Air Force has stated that the bombings involve dropping inert or “dummy” bombs that do not explode, increasing numbers of Hawaiians have begun a public crusade against the tropical island being used for target practice.
One concern held by Big Island activists is that B-2 pilots are not using the technology of the bombers’ weapons guidance systems that typically release bombs with precision and accuracy. Instead, pilots over Hawaii rely on gravity and wind alone to navigate the bomb drops.
In an interview with Malu Aina’s President, Jim Albertini, the peace group leader shared his concern that, beyond the threat of wayward bombs missing targets, another serious hazard concerning the grounds upon which the bombs are dropped exists. Albertini begins, “The issue is more than computer guided systems. The issue is that bombing and shelling at PTA has been going on for more than 50 years. For most people it appears to be a non-issue. It is out of sight and out of mind.”
For the people of Hawaii, the basis for concern is rooted in public health. As Albertini explained, “Perhaps if cancer stats show high rates and it can be linked to DU at PTA, it will start to grab people. The problem is that neither Hawaii State, County, or Federal officials want to confirm a problem with military contamination, DU - or any kind. They appear to want to keep the lid on the issue because of the negative impacts it may have on the tourist industry.”
In August, just one month before B-2s began dropping bombs on radioactively contaminated soils at Pohakuloa, the Army released a report of an aerial survey confirming the presence of what they maintain is former use of Depleted Uranium on the military site. (2)
Radioactive contamination had previously been confirmed on Kahoolawhe Island, and Schofield Barracks, Ohau. The military has mentioned Makua Military Reservation, Oahu, as another suspected radioactive contamination site. (3) On December 3, Makua Military Reservation was the location of several detonations of unexploded ordnance from years of live-fire weapons use at that site beginning in WWII. (4)
The admission of Depleted uranium (DU) in weapons training on the Hawaiian Islands came after years of the military denying its use and presence on the islands. As stated in the Malu Aina press release, “The full extent of military radiation contamination is unknown due to the extensive size of firing ranges in Hawaii, poor record keeping by the military, and incomplete testing to date.”
To address citizen concerns, on November 16, the Army and State of Hawaii Health Department held a public information meeting on DU contamination of PTA. Lorrin Pang, M.D., State of Hawaii District Health Officer, spoke as a private citizen, comparing DU to a cigarette, explaining that “a cigarette by itself is harmless but when burned and inhaled it becomes dangerous, so with DU when it is weaponized, burned (oxidized), and inhaled it becomes dangerous.” (5)
Adverse health effects of DU contamination, according to Dr. Bertell, include cancers and tumor formation, chronic disease, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s, muscular and skeletal problems, anemia, rashes, irritability, high blood pressure, thyroid problems, loss of cellular immunity, autoimmune system diseases, joint diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, diseases of the kidneys, circulatory system, and nervous system. (6) In addition, radiation from the use of Uranium weapons is also implicated in the dramatic rise of diabetes in the US. (7)
As Lance Holter reported for the The Haleakala Times, “The hearings were the result of Big Island citizens monitoring high background levels of radiation downwind from the Pohakuloa gunnery range during Army Stryker maneuvers at the range, April 22. Normal background levels are in the area of 10 to 20 counts per minute (CPM) but on April 22nd the citizens' measurements went as high as 93 CPM. Public outcry and concerns over dangers from radiation prompted two front page stories in the Honolulu Advertiser.” (8)