Serbian administrators are investigating the discovery of two missiles loaded in the cargo compartment of a Lebanese passenger plane headed to the U.S. Lebanese authorities claim the units were training dummies being returned to their American manufacturer.
The missiles, just over 5 feet long, were found in the luggage compartment of an Air Serbia airliner, packed in wooden crates. The plane’s final destination was Portland, Ore.
Identified as AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles, they were discovered by Serbian security forces using sniffer dogs. U.S. officials have backed Lebanese authorities and confirmed that these were dummy units. Lebanon has a small fleet of Hellfire-equipped aircraft.
Starting two years ago, with the help of U.S. defense contractors, the Lebanese Air Force started outfitting Cessna C-208B Caravan Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance aircraft with Hellfire missile systems. As of last year, they had two Hellfire-equipped Cessna C-208Bs and have requested a third.
The Lebanese military has issued a statement that the units were being returned to Lockheed Martin in accordance “with administrative and legal measures after the training ended,” reports the Belfast Telegraph.
“We hope that our [investigation] will be finished this week,” said Serbian spokesman Ivan Markovic, who explained that the report may take extra time “because some of the [evidence] is located in foreign countries.”
Why they were shipped in a passenger plane is still being looked into. One possibility is that these units were not considered military equipment due to their trainer status. Air Serbia is cooperating with local authorities in the investigation.
Although they are, by all official accounts, non-functioning, the training units may have been contaminated by traces of fuel or explosives before being detected by the sniffer dogs. According to the original Serbian report by N1, military equipment, specifically missiles, never transported by passenger plane for safety reasons.
The local FBI has said that they’re aware of the incident but have not commented. According to the World Post Lockheed Martin was not informed of any issue and deferred to government authorities on the matter.