After a thorough search, the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) on Saturday concluded their effort to find a missile a Spanish Eurofighter accidentally fired earlier this week in the Endla nature reserve. They found neither the missile nor any evidence that it could have reached the ground in the area.
The search for the missile’s possible place of impact will be continued using the Air Force’s resources, spokespeople at the headquarters of the EDF said. Members of the 1st Infantry Brigade who arrived in the area on Friday have searched an area of approximately 600 sq m with metal detectors, and inspected an area of about 200 hectares by way of observation.
“As there were many misleading signals in the soil layer, we peeled off a top layer of approximately half a meter down to the clay layer with the help of an excavator, and continued searches with deep screen detectors,” Capt. Karmo Saar, head of the explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) center of the EDF, said. He added that no signals pointing to the missile were found with equipment able to reach some six metres into the ground. “This is strong clay soil. Considering the aluminium construction of the missile, we do not think that it could have penetrated deeper than six metres there,” he added.
After searching the area, it was restored back to the state prior to the digging as best possible, and a visual inspection of the area with a range of approximately half a kilometre was continued.
“We searched for parts of the missile or other indications, like broken branches or other characteristics referring to the missile’s impact both from the ground and the surrounding trees in a chain formation. As a conclusion of all of this, we can say that we do not believe the missile came down in the area inspected,” Saar said.
According to commander of the Air Force, Col. Riivo Valge the search will continue using the resources of the Air Force. He added that it is possible that the missile has penetrated the earth in a bog, and that it can’t be found at all, but the decision has been made to continue with visual searches nonetheless.
“We hoped we would find the missile in the current search area, as all external characteristics indicated [that it dropped to the ground there], but those characteristics did not lead us to a find,” Valge said.
The EDF are still asking people to phone in any clues that might lead to finding the missile. Anyone who finds an object resembling a missile is asked to immediately move away from it and call 112.
On Tuesday 9 August at 15:44 EEST, a Spanish Eurofighter on NATO Baltic air policing duty accidentally fired an air-to-air missile in a north-northwesterly direction while over the Pangodi area in Tartu County. The fighter was at an altitude of 6,000 m when the missile was fired. The incident is subject to an investigation.