The Spanish Eurofighter Typhoon 2000 launched an AMRAAM-type air-to-air missile over Estonian territory Tuesday afternoon. All the Estonians are very shocked.
The incident occurred on August 7, 2018, at around 3:44 PM local time in the Pangodi area of Estonia's Tartu County, which is situated less than 50 miles west of the country's border with Russia.
The rocket is being searched by helicopters.
The Estonian army has started a large-scale search. The flight path, location and status of the missile are currently under investigation. The last assumed location of the missile is roughly 40 km to the north of the city of Tartu.
The AMRAAM-type missile's firing range is 100 km, it is 3.7-m long, 18 cm in diameter, and carries a live warhead. The missile carried explosives of up to 10 kilograms (22 pounds). It has a built-in self-destruct for such incidents, but may have landed on the ground. Spain is forced to explain why one of its jets fired a missile during a drill in the airspace of the Baltic country and NATO ally.
"A Spanish Eurofighter based in Lithuania accidentally fired a missile without causing any harm," Spain's defence ministry said in a statement, adding that the incident happened "in an area of southwest Estonia authorised for this type of exercise". "The air-to-air missile did not hit any aircraft. The defence ministry has opened investigation to clarify the exact cause of the incident," it continued. There are no known human casualties. Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas said on Facebook "thank God no human casualties," calling the incident "extremely regrettable."
After the incident, the Spanish Eurofighter Typhoon 2000, from that country's Ala 11, or 11th Wing, based at Morón Air Base, safely landed at its base in iauliai in Lithuania.
So far there is no word on whether the launch was the result of any fault with the aircraft or pilot error. Whatever the case turns out to be, it's definitely embarrassing for Spain, which is among the NATO members that spends the least on defense. It's also not a great look for the Alliance as a whole, which has been under increasing pressure, especially from the United States, to reinvigorate its military capabilities after years of increasing neglect in many cases since the end of the Cold War.
The Spanish jet is part of NATO's Baltic air-policing mission. Neighbouring to Russia and NATO countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania do not have their own fighter aircraft. Therefore the allies in the margin of the Baltic Air Policing mission since 2004 protect the Baltic airspace for their own account.
Spanish Eurofighters have suffered a number of accidents dating back all the way back to 2002, when the crew of a two-seat variant ejected safely after suffering a dual-engine flameout. Additional crashes occurred in 2010 and 2017, killing the pilots in both cases, but there have been no other reports of misfired weaponry.
It is worth recalling the incidents caused by the errors of NATO, which led to human casualties.
On February 22, 2010