US Hellfire missile mistakenly shipped to Havana

havana-live-missilHAVANA, Jan. 8th A dummy US Hellfire missile was mistakenly shipped from Europe to Cuba in 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

The inert missile did not contain any explosives, the Journal reported, but there are concerns that Cuba could share the technology with potential US adversaries such as North Korea or Russia.

The Journal report was attributed to anonymous “people familiar with the matter”.

A US official with knowledge of the situation, who wasn’t authorised to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity, confirmed its veracity to the Associated Press (AP).

According to the defense department, the Hellfire is a laser-guided, air-to-surface missile that weighs about 45kg (100lb). It can be deployed from an attack helicopter such as the Apache or an unmanned drone such as the Predator. It is manufactured by Lockheed Martin.

The US official told the AP that Lockheed was authorised to export the dummy missile for a Nato training exercise. The official attributed the shipping error to Lockheed’s freight forwarders, and said the US was working with Lockheed to get the device back.

The official said the US did not 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.

US officials have been urging the Cuban government to return the missile, the Journal’s sources said. The US and Cuba restored diplomatic relations in July 2015 after more than 50 years of hostility.

The Journal reported that the US is also investigating whether the missile’s disappearance was a deliberate act of espionage.