A U.S. Hellfire missile sent to Europe for use in a NATO military exercise was improperly sent to Cuba sometime in 2014, leading federal officials to investigate whether the delivery was accidental or orchestrated by spies or criminals.
The Wall Street Journal reported:
Hellfires are air-to-ground missiles, often fired from helicopters. They were first designed as antitank weapons decades ago, but have been modernized to become an important part of the U.S. government’s antiterrorism arsenal, often fired from Predator drones to carry out lethal attacks on targets in countries including Yemen and Pakistan, said people familiar with the technology. This particular missile didn’t contain explosives, but U.S. officials worry that Cuba could share the sensors and targeting technology inside it with nations like China, North Korea, or Russia, these people said. Officials don’t suspect Cuba is likely to try to take apart the missile on its own and try to develop similar weapons technology, these people said. It is unclear whether a U.S. adversary has ever obtained such knowledge of a Hellfire.
For over a year, U.S. officials have been trying to compel Cuba to return the missile, which was first found to be in the country in June 2014 around the time that State Department officials were engaging in private talks to normalize relations with Cuba.
Lockheed Martin Corp., the missile’s manufacturer, handled the shipping with permission from the State Department.