Spanish Eurofighter Performs Unauthorized Missile Launch During NATO Exercise

On August 7, an Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) was fired from a Spanish-flown Eurofighter 2000 jet during a NATO exercise over Estonia. The incident occurred near the Russian border, and the missile is believed to have crashed approximately 40 km north of Tartu, in eastern Estonia. Spanish Eurofighter jets are suspended from further participation in the exercise pending investigation.

The Eurofighter 2000 is equipped with an armament control system (ACS) which requires multiple interfaces with the pilot in order to fire a weapon. However, the jet may fire a missile without multiple verification steps when it is in visual mode, a capability designed to permit quick launches if the pilot is outnumbered by enemy aircraft and which authorizes the system to target specified threats within a narrow window. Investigations are underway to determine if the fighter jet’s visual mode was mistakenly engaged or if a different technical or human error caused the launch.

On August 10, Estonian Defense Minister Juri Luik halted further NATO air exercises until investigations are carried out. Unsuccessful ground search efforts for the missile were discontinued on August 11. Estonian Air Force Commander Col. Riivo Valge said an air search for the missing AMRAAM is ongoing.