Losses and Aviation Safety

Spanish Eurofighter aircraft suspended from NATO Baltic Air Policing duties in the wake of accidental AMRAAM launch

While investigations are still underway, military sources said that human error is the most likely cause as no software errors have been detected

Spanish Air Force Eurofighter aircraft deployed to the Baltics for air policing duties are being sidelined after one of the jets accidentally launched an AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missile over Pangodi, some 40 kilometers north of Tartu, in south Estonia, on Aug. 7, 2018.

Portuguese F-16s and French Mirage 2000s have taken over the task while investigations continue.

Estonian authorities are still looking for the missing missile, which they suspect may have hit the ground despite having a built-in self-destruct mode meant to go off in the air. No explosion was detected at the time of the incident.

While investigations are still underway, military sources said that human error is the most likely cause as no software errors have been detected.

Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas on Wednesday expressed concern about the matter in a telephone conversation with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

“I told the secretary general of NATO that it is a serious incident and we are understandably concerned about this in Estonia. Thank God that as far as we know, no one was hurt as a result of the incident,” said Ratas, according to a government press release. Stoltenberg for his part lamented the incident and offered NATO’s complete support for the investigation, said the Alliance’s spokesperson.

As reported by El País, sources said that Estonia is being “low-key” about its complaint, because “everyone is aware that such an incident, while improbable, cannot be ruled out,” and that NATO members ensure the Baltic nations’ airspace defense free of charge.

Spain has deployed aircraft in the Baltics around six times since 2004. Its current deployment includes 135 personnel and six Eurofighter jets from the military base of Morón de la Frontera (Seville), which are now stationed at the base of Siauliai in northern Lithuania. The mission began on May 1 and will end on August 31.

Photo credit: Tim Felce via Wikipedia

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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