A Spanish Eurofighter jet accidentally launched an air-to-air missile in the Estonian air space on 7 August.
The incident occurred on 7 August at 3:44 PM EEDT near the town of Otepää in a temporarily segregated area. The missile’s direction was north and its exact trajectory, location and fate is unknown.
According to the Estonian Defence Forces, the missile was equipped with a self-destruction mode that should activate when it’s launched by an accident, but it cannot be ruled out that the missile landed on the ground. The AMRAAM type missile is 3.7 metres (12.1 feet) long, with a diameter of 18 cm (7’’) and it carries explosives. The last presumed location of the missile was 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of the Estonian town of Tartu.
The defence forces have launched a search mission, using helicopters.
If anyone encounters objects that may be parts of the missile or the missile itself, the defence forces ask the public not to touch it, but retreat and immediately call the air force at +372 717 1900 or the emergency line 112. The defence forces also ask the public not to go searching for the missile.
The Spanish fighter that accidentally launched the missile, an Eurofighter Typhoon 2000, returned to its home base in the Lithuanian town of Šiauliai. The defence forces have launched an investigation into the launch.
Aerial military exercises suspended in Estonia
The Estonian prime minister, Jüri Ratas, said in a Facebook post that even though the incident didn’t bring any casualties, it’s still regrettable. “The defence forces alongside with the participants of the air policing mission are investigating the incident and all institutions are doing everything they can to assure public safety,” he added.
Estonian defence minister Jüri Luik has also ordered the suspension of all aerial military exercises in the country’s air space until all the circumstances in connection to the incident have been resolved.
The Spanish jets are based in Lithuania as part of the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission that was established in 2004 to assist Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania who have no airborne air defence capability of their own. The aim of the mission is to prevent unauthorised incursion into the airspace of the Baltic states and its most frequent duty is intercepting Russian aircraft and escorting them from the area.
The allied jets are based in Šiauliai and Estonia’s Ämari Air Base on a rotational basis. Currently, four French jets are based in Ämari and four Spanish jets in Šiauliai.
Cover: A Spanish Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon (the image is illustrative/Wikimedia Commons).