Training version of Hellfire missile returned by Cuba after shipping mistake

Hellfire loaded onto the rails of a United States Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra at Balad Air Base in Iraq in 2005. Public domain photo.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Cuba has returned a dummy U.S. Hellfire missile that was mistakenly shipped to the country in 2014, American officials said Saturday.

The Hellfire is a laser-guided, air-to-surface missile that weighs about 100 pounds. Manufactured by Lockheed Martin, it can be deployed from an attack helicopter like the Apache or an unmanned drone like the Predator.

The weapon returned by Cuba was an inert training missile that was inadvertently sent to the island from Europe, where it was used in a NATO training exercise.

It didn’t contain explosives, but the device’s diversion raised concerns that Cuba could share technology with potential U.S. adversaries like North Korea or Russia. It had an incomplete guidance section and no operational seeker head, warhead, fusing system or rocket motor.

“The inert training missile has been returned with the cooperation of the Cuban government,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. He declined to elaborate, but credited July’s re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the former Cold War foes for allowing Washington to engage Havana “on issues of mutual interest.”

U.S. officials had been trying to recoup the missile for several months.

The shipping error was attributed to Lockheed’s freight forwarders, but the U.S. said last month it was working with the weapons manufacturer to get the missile back.

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