One of the most advanced U.S. missiles was unintentionally shipped to Cuba in 2014, according to a report Thursday evening in the Wall Street Journal.
The Hellfire missile was supposed to be sent to Europe for a training mission, the Journal reported, cited “people familiar with the matter.”
Shipping such a sophisticated weapon to a communist dictatorship with which the U.S. at the time didn’t have diplomatic relations and has been under U.S. embargo for a half-century would be among the worst mistakes of its kind in U.S. military history, the sources said.
The Hellfire is an air-to-surface missile that acquired its name from the Pentagon’s specification for a “helicopter-launched, fire and forget” missile. It equips, among other weapons platforms, the U.S. military’s Predator drones.
According to the report, the missile was inert and U.S. officials don’t fear that Cuba could build Hellfire missiles on its own. But, while the U.S. doesn’t yet know what Cuba did with the missing missile, some of the sensors and guidance equipment could have been shared with U.S. adversaries.
U.S. officials also don’t know whether the mistake was merely an innocent shipping error, or something nefarious.
“Did someone take a bribe to send it somewhere else? Was it an intelligence operation, or just a series of mistakes? That’s what we’ve been trying to figure out,” one U.S. official told the Journal.