U.S. recovers Hellfire air-to-ground missile from Cuba

havana-live-helllfireHAVANA, Feb. 14th (Reuters) The United States has recovered an inert Hellfire air-to-ground missile that had mistakenly ended up in Cuba, U.S. and Cuban officials said on Saturday.

The laser-guided AGM 114 Hellfire mistakenly arrived in Cuba in June 2014 and was retrieved on Saturday by U.S. officials and representatives of Lockheed Martin Corp, the missile’s owner, the Cuban foreign ministry said in a statement.

“We can say, without speaking to specifics, that the inert training missile has been returned with the cooperation of the Cuban government,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.

Lockheed Martin spokesman Bill Phelps declined comment.

The missile had been sent to Europe for a training exercise in 2014 but somehow ended up in Cuba in an embarrassing loss of military technology, the Wall Street Journal reported last month.

“The department is restricted under federal law and regulations from commenting on specific defense trade licensing cases and compliance matters, so we cannot provide further details,” Toner said.

But he said reestablished diplomatic relations between the two countries have helped the U.S. “engage with the Cuban government on issues of mutual interest.”

Cuba said the missile arrived by mistake or mishandling on a commercial flight from Paris and was not listed on the cargo manifest, and that it was discovered by customs inspectors.

“Once the U.S. government officially informed the Cuban government that a training missile belonging to the company Lockheed Martin was mistakenly sent to our country and expressed its interest in recovering it, Cuba communicated the decision to hand it over and started arrangements for its return,” the Cuban statement said, without revealing when the United States made the request.

A team of U.S. government and Lockheed Martin experts took the missile back to the United States on Saturday, Cuba said.