A missile that should have come back to Florida after being sent to Europe for training purposes ended up being wrongly shipped to Cuba back in 2014 and has yet to be returned.
While the missile is just a dummy, there is worry that Cuba will share the sensors and technology with countries such as China or Russia, even though this particular missile did not contain an explosive. The 45 kg laser-guided missile is meant to be dropped from a combat helicopter to attack ground targets.
International Business Times mentions that Lockhead’s freight carriers are to blame for this shipping mistake.
After more than a year of the U.S. mending their relationship with Cuba again after 50 years, it is a concern that the missile will land in the wrong hands. Federal investigators are following the paper trail of the missile in their attempt of determining whether or not the missile ended up in Cuba based on the work of spies or criminals.
One U.S. official shared this statement.
“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,”
The security of commercial shipments is now going to be a constant concern. Officials are trying to find out if someone intentionally set the missile off course. Back in early 2014, the missile left the Orlando International Airport. The package containing the missile was marked as containing “material subject to rigorous export controls”, which would make it very obvious that anyone who handled it would know it wasn’t just a normal cargo.
The missile did make it to Spain to be used in a military exercise by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. For unclear reasons, after the missile was used for the military exercise, it was packaged up and sent around Europe and eventually landed in Germany. Once the missile was in Germany, the missile was supposed to be on it’s way back to Florida.
When it was realized that the missile was not aboard the flight back to Florida, the officials traced the cargo back to Paris.
The cargo containing the missile had incidentally ended up in an Air France truck, where it was then loaded onto an Air France flight. After the officials had no success contacting Air France, the missile landed in Havana where apparently a local official seized it after realizing the labels on it. Sometime around June of 2014, Lockhead Martin officials notified the state department after they realized the missile package, now likely to be in Cuba, was missing.
Justice Department prosecutors and agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement are investigating to see if this misplacement of the military missile was a result of a crime. Industry experts say it is unheard of for a shipment of this kind to end up in Cuba.
Peter Singer of the New America Foundation said it is likely that some foreign nations would like to use a missile such as the Hellfire to reverse engineer it in order to improve their missiles by examining the unique technology used.
“Now it’s a proliferation concern—someone else now understands how it works and what may have been cutting edge for us is deconstructed and packaged into what other players sell on the open market—and possibly provided to countries that we wouldn’t sell to.”
The U.S. and Cuba have been at a standoff since the 1950s, and during the time of this shipment error, the U.S. and Cuba were in negotiations to “normalize relations,” a very sensitive time for such an incident to occur.
If it is found that the missile was shipped to Cuba due to a human error, the State Department will determine if they will pursue legal action against Lockhead Martin.
[Photo by Ethan Miller/ Getty Images]