HAVANA – Cuba on the weekend returned to the United States a missile received “by mistake” on the island in 2014, with a Cuban team of experts returning it to U.S. territory, the Cuban Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“Cuba acted with seriousness and transparency and cooperated in order to find a satisfactory solution to this situation,” says the text, adding that the inert air-to-surface missile – a “laser-guided AGM 114 Hellfire rocket” – arrived in the communist nation in June 2014 on a flight from Paris “by mistake or mishandling in the country of shipment.”
The statement says that once the U.S. government officially communicated to Havana its interest in recovering the missile, “the procedures between the two parties (for doing so) were begun,” and the transfer was carried out on Saturday.
Havana insisted that the Lockheed Martin missile “was properly held and taken care of” until the arrival of “a team of experts from the U.S. government and the above-mentioned company who traveled to Cuba to examine (its) condition.”
On Jan. 7, the U.S. press reported that a missile lacking a warhead, initially sent to Spain in 2014 and used in NATO military training exercises, mistakenly wound up in Cuba, instead of returning to its country of origin.
The missile was shipped from Florida to Spain’s Rota naval base and was used in NATO exercises, according to The Wall Street Journal. The daily said that Washington has been asking Havana for more than a year to return the high-tech weapon.
Hellfire missiles are fired from combat aircraft, including helicopters, and were also designed as antitank weapons, but they have been modernized and fired from drones to attack terrorist targets in Yemen and Pakistan.