A Spanish Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft accidentally fired an AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) while flying over Estonia, less than 50 km west of the Russian border. The missile has not been recovered.
Estonian authorities say the last presumed position of the AIM-120 was around 25 miles north of the city of Tartu proper. After launching the missile, the Spanish EF2000, from that country’s Ala 11, or 11th Wing, based at Morón Air Base, returned to its forward operating location in Šiauliai, Lithuania.The incident took place on Tuesday, August 7, 2018 sometime around 3:45 PM local. AIM-120 weapon has a self-destruct feature, but it is unclear if it exploded or crashed into the ground.
Estonian Defense Forces subsequently went out to look for any signs of the weapon using helicopters, but so far, there is no indication that they have found anything.
According to a statement by Estonian Defense Forces, the AIM-120 AMRAAM was equipped with an automatic to destruct mechanism intended to destroy the missile if it were accidentally discharged, but officials could not confirm if the missile had been destroyed. They have issued an official hotline phone number in Estonia to call immediately if parts of the missile are found, and the public is cautioned not to touch or approach suspected missile debris. The phone number to report suspected missile fragments in Estonia is: +372 717 1900.
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The missile is more than 12 feet long and has a warhead with between 40 and 50 pounds of high explosive depending on the particular variant. As such, Estonian officials have urged anyone who does come across bits of the AMRAAM to stay away from it and alert the authorities.
The Eurofighter Typhoon that accidentally fired the missile was based at Šiauliai, Lithuania, where it returned following the incident. Conflicting reports say the aircraft had either been participating in a training exercise or a QRA (quick reaction alert) drill: considered that alert aircraft carry live missiles, the latter seems more likely, even though aerial exercises in the context of enhanced air policing operations may involve armed aircraft.
So far there is no word on whether the launch was the result of a fault with the aircraft or pilot error. Neither would seem particularly likely to occur.