The Eurofighter Typhoon, normally based in Siauliai, Lithuania, was flying with another Spanish aircraft and two French Mirage 2000 jets when the incident occurred on August 7, near the city of Otepaa in south-east Estonia.
A statement from the Spanish Ministry of Defence confirmed that a missile had been accidentally fired by one of their Eurofighter jets but said: “The air-to-air missile has not hit any aircraft. The defence ministry has opened an investigation to clarify the exact cause of the incident”.
Although the air-to-air missile has a built-in self-destruct mode, it is not known if this functioned or if the munition hit the ground. As the Estonian Air Force continued to search for the missing weapon, the public were warned not to look for it themselves.
Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas ‘thanked God’ on Facebook that there were no casualties.
“I am sure that the Estonian defence 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 said.
A Eurofighter Typhoon from the Spanish Air Force departs RAF Fairford’s runway to display at the 2016 Royal International Air Tattoo.
A Eurofighter Typhoon from the Spanish Air Force departs RAF Fairford’s runway to display at the 2016 Royal International Air Tattoo. Credit: Peter Brogden / Alamy Stock Photo/www.alamy.com
The Eurofighter Typhoon, in service with the British, Spanish, Italian and German air forces, have numerous safety measures to prevent accidental firings. To launch a missile the pilot would first have to rotate the Master Arm Switch to ‘Live’, then operate the Late Arm Switch on the trigger itself. Even then the weapon will not fire unless there is a target already in the jet’s computer, or the pilot has selected ‘dogfight’ mode.
It is possible the missile may have been ejected from the aircraft, rather than fired, a standard procedure if the jet needs to lose the weight of all its munitions rapidly in the event of an incident.