Spanish jet accidentally fires missile above Estonia, prompts hunt for remains


Spain's defense ministry said Tuesday it has opened an investigation after one of its Eurofighter jets accidentally fired a missile in the skies over Estonia during a routine training mission.

"A Spanish Eurofighter Typhoon based in Lithuania accidentally fired a missile without causing any harm," the ministry said in a statement, adding that the incident happened Tuesday afternoon "in an area of southwest Estonia authorized for this type of exercise".

"The air-to-air missile has not hit any aircraft. The defense ministry has opened an investigation to clarify the exact cause of the incident," it added.

Two Spanish Eurofighter jets, and two French Mirage 2000 jets, were taking part in the training exercise in the Baltic country, the ministry said. After the incident the jets returned an air base in Siauliai in northern Lithuania where they are based.

The AMRAAM-type air-to-air missile missile carried up to 10 kilos (22 pounds) of explosives and is designed to self-destruct in the event of such accidents, but it may have landed on the ground, according to Spanish media reports.

Estonian air force chief Riivo Valge said told an Estonian radio broadcaster that that is, comparatively, not much destructive force. Estonia's military said the missile was fired near the south-eastern city of Otepaa.

Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas said on Facebook "thank God" there were "no human casualties" due to this "startling incident", which he called "extremely regrettable".

"I am sure that the Estonian defense forces will, in cooperation with our allies, identify all the circumstances of the case and make every effort to make sure that nothing like this happens again," he added.

The missile was last located around 40 kilometers (24 miles) north of Estonia's second city of Tartu. It has a built-in self-destruct for such accidents, but may have landed on the ground. Helicopter crews are searching for the missile.

The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have no fighter jets of their own, making them reliant on other NATO partners for air security. Valge said this was the first time such an incident had been reported.

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