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Inert U.S. Hellfire missile wrongly shipped to Cuba in 2014: WSJ
An inert U.S. Hellfire missile sent to Europe for a training exercise ended up by mistake in Cuba in 2014, in a serious loss of military technology, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter.
U.S. investigators are trying to find out what went wrong and authorities have been trying to get the Cuban government to return the air-to-ground missile, which is often fired from helicopters and used as an anti-tank weapon, those familiar with the matter said, according to the Journal.
Missing U.S. Hellfire missile located in Cuba
One of the most advanced U.S. missiles was unintentionally shipped to Cuba in 2014, according to a report Thursday evening in the Wall Street Journal.
The Hellfire missile was supposed to be sent to Europe for a training mission, the Journal reported, cited “people familiar with the matter.”
Shipping such a sophisticated weapon to a communist dictatorship with which the U.S. at the time didn’t have diplomatic relations and has been under U.S. embargo for a half-century would be among the worst mistakes of its kind in U.S. military history, the sources said.
The Hellfire is an air-to-surface missile that acquired its name from the Pentagon’s specification for a “helicopter-launched, fire and forget” missile. It equips, among other weapons platforms, the U.S. military’s Predator drones.
According to the report, the missile was inert and U.S. officials don’t fear that Cuba could build Hellfire missiles on its own. But, while the U.S. doesn’t yet know what Cuba did with the missing missile, some of the sensors and guidance equipment could have been shared with U.S. adversaries.
U.S. officials also don’t know whether the mistake was merely an innocent shipping error, or something nefarious.
“Did someone take a bribe to send it somewhere else? Was it an intelligence operation, or just a series of mistakes? That’s what we’ve been trying to figure out,” one U.S. official told the Journal.
Dummy Hellfire Missile Mistakenly Shipped to Cuba
A dummy U.S. Hellfire missile was mistakenly shipped from Europe to Cuba in 2014, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
The inert missile did not contain any explosives, the Journal reported, but there are concerns that Cuba could share the technology with potential U.S. adversaries like North Korea or Russia.
The Journal report was attributed to anonymous “people familiar with the matter.” A U.S. official with knowledge of the situation, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity, confirmed its veracity to The Associated Press.
According to the Defense Department, the Hellfire is a laser-guided, air-to-surface missile that weighs about 100 pounds. It can be deployed from an attack helicopter like the Apache or an unmanned drone like the Predator. It is manufactured by Lockheed Martin.
The U.S. official told the AP that Lockheed was authorized to export the dummy missile for a NATO training exercise. The official attributed the shipping error to Lockheed’s freight forwarders, and said the U.S. was working with Lockheed to get the device back.
The official said the U.S. doesn’t want any defense technology to remain in a proscribed country, whether that country can use it or not. The official said there is greater concern that Cuba could give more technically advanced countries access to the dummy.
According to the Journal report, the missile was properly shipped to Spain, where it was used in the training exercise. It was then taken on a somewhat roundabout journey through Spain, Germany and France before winding up at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. From there, it was supposed to have been shipped back to Florida; instead, it was loaded onto an Air France flight to Havana.
U.S. officials have been urging the Cuban government to return the missile, the Journal’s sources said. The U.S. and Cuba restored diplomatic relations in July 2015 after more than 50 years of hostility.
The Journal reported that the U.S. is also investigating whether the missile’s disappearance was a deliberate act of espionage.