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Cuba returns dummy Hellfire missile to US

The US has recovered an air-to-surface missile which was sent to Cuba after a logistical mix-up in 2014. The inert weapon was discovered by customs inspectors on a commercial flight from Paris.

A team of American experts took the missile back to the US on Saturday, Cuban officials said in a statement.

The US officials confirmed the delivery, saying that the recent diplomatic thaw between the two countries allowed Washington to engage with Havana "on issues of mutual interest."

"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.

The US reportedly shipped the weapon to Europe in 2014 for a NATO training exercise. It subsequently arrived in Cuba on a commercial flight from Paris.

Symbolbild - Predator Drohne

Predator drones often use Hellfire missiles

Customs inspectors found the 100-pound (45 kilograms) rocket during a routine examination, the Cuban government said. It added that the missile was delivered to Havana by "error or mishandling."

"For Cuban authorities, the arrival in the country of US-made military equipment that hadn't been declared as such on the cargo manifest was worrying," they added.

Weapon 'duly conserved'

Although the misplaced projectile was a dummy version of the

laser-guided rocket,

with no explosive charge and no motor, the incident raised concerns that Havana could ship the US military technology to its traditional allies, Russia and China.

However, Havana officials said on Saturday that the equipment was "duly conserved and taken care of," stressing its cooperation with the US government.

The US defense giant Lockheed Martin first introduced the laser-guided Hellfire missiles in 1984. They are currently used in dozens of countries, most commonly as a weapon for assault helicopters and drones.

The US Justice Department is still investigating the shipping incident, which only became public after the Wall Street Journal reported on it last month.

dj/jm (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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