Stray missile investigation suggests pilot error
An internal Spanish military investigation has concluded that the accidental firing of an air-to-air missile in Estonian airspace by a NATO jet on 7 August resulted from pilot error, according to Spanish daily El País, quoted in Estonian daily Postimees.
While the overall investigation into the incident continues, anonymous military sources claim that fault lies with the pilot in the misfiring of an AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), from a Spanish Airforce Eurofighter Typhoon.
The paper claims that investigative tests show the pilot initiated the missile firing sequence during training. Normally, safety mechanisms should stop the actual launching in such cases, so the incident is reportedly rare.
However, weapons systems on the Typhoon multi-role, multi-national fighter are particularly complex and varied.
The missile was fired over Pangodi village, near Tartu, and is thought to have impacted in or near the Endla bog, about 100 km north. The Estonian/Russian border lies about 60 km east of Pangodi. The plane was flying at around a 6,000-metre altitude at the time.
Six hundred hectares of Endla bog was searched in the following days using equipment, with a further 200 hectares checked visually, yielding no trace of the missile or its debris. No reported casualties or material damage resulted from the incident, though brush fires broke out in the aftermath of impact.
Other investigations into the misfiring are still ongoing.
Editor: Andrew Whyte