NATO fighter jet ‘accidentally’ fires live missile near Russian border
Spanish fighter jets taking part in a NATO Air policing mission over Estonia have been temporarily suspended from completing their duties, after one of the pilots erroneously fired an armed missile during a training flight.
A group of two Spanish Eurofighter Typhoon 2000 jets and two French Mirage 2000 jets were taking part in a training exercise over southwestern Estonia on Tuesday when one of the Spanish planes accidentally launched an air-to-air missile, the Spanish Defense Ministry said in a statement, adding that the projectile “did not hit any aircraft.”
All the jets then safely returned to their Saiuliai air base in Lithuania, the ministry said, adding that it has opened an investigation into the incident. Meanwhile, the Estonian authorities decided to ban the Spanish aircraft from taking part in the air policing missions over its territory for a while.
“I have ordered a suspension of all military sorties [by the Spanish jets] until the situation is resolved,” the Estonian Defense Minister Juri Luik said, as cited by the national ERR broadcaster. He added that “the NATO air mission will continue, though.” ERR reports that the Portuguese Air Force will take Spain’s place as part of the mission for the time being.
“The most important thing is to ensure safety and find out what happened, together with our allies,” Luik said, commenting on his decision. The missile fired by the jet should have self-destructed but apparently failed to do so.
The projectile in question is an AMRAAM-type air-to-air missile with a firing range of 100 kilometers that carries a warhead fitted with explosives of up to 10 kilograms. It was last located some 40 kilometers north of Estonia’s city of Tartu, where it might have landed on the ground, according to Estonian media.
The Estonian Air Force launched a search operation on Tuesday evening. The authorities also asked the locals to be wary and notify the military or the emergency services in case they find the missile or its parts.
The Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas called the incident “horrible” and “regrettable.” However, he nevertheless praised the NATO mission as a “very important and necessary part of ensuring Estonia’s security.”
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