AIM-120 AMRAAM missile © Jaap Arriens / Global Look Press
Following a full day of extensive searches, Estonian authorities are 95% certain that they’ve located the likely landing site of the air-to-air missile fired “accidentally” by a Spanish fighter jet during a NATO training mission.
The missile, which was launched north of the city of Tartu, most likely fell at the Lake Endla Nature Reserve in the Jõgeva district in central Estonia, authorities said, after receiving several tips from locals. An extensive search operation continues in the area.
However, although the Commander of the Estonian Air Force Riivo Valge confirmed that the military had found the “possible landing site” and that “circumstantial evidence” had pointed to the missile being there, authorities have yet to confirm if any debris has been found. It also remains unclear if the air-to-air missile self-destructed before falling to the ground, or exploded on impact.
NATO fighter jet ‘accidentally’ fires live missile near Russian border
The embarrassing mishap occurred on Tuesday, when two Spanish Eurofighter Typhoon 2000 jets were taking part in training exercises with two French Mirage 2000 jets, and has prompted the Estonian Air Force to temporarily suspend Spanish aircraft from exercises over its territory.
The accidentally-fired projectile is an AMRAAM air-to-air missile with a range of 100 kilometers and a warhead which can be fitted with up to 10 kilograms of explosives.
Reports in Spanish media suggested that “human error” was most likely the cause of the incident, since no software problems were found, but also noted that it was not simply a case of “pressing a button” and that a missile launch required several steps from the pilot.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Juri Ratas, who on Tuesday praised the NATO mission as a “very important and necessary part of ensuring Estonia’s security,” told the alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that Estonia was “understandably concerned” and called on him to investigate this “serious incident.”
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