Live French air-to-air missile prompts Florida airport evacuation

U.S. Air Force photo

Lakeland Linder International Airport (LAL) in Florida was evacuated after a live Matra S-530 medium-range air-to-air missile was discovered in a container. A bomb disposal team from MacDill Air Force Base safely recovered the weapon.

The live but unarmed missile was discovered by an employee of Draken International, headquartered at Lakeland airport. “In the process of evaluating shipments to Draken International’s Lakeland facility, our team discovered an object with questionable markings indicating it may be explosive,” the company said in a statement to Tampa Bay Times.

The private contractor provides realistic training, known as adversary air services (ADAIR), to the U.S. military pilots. Among the 150 private fighter jets that it operates, Draken recently acquired 24 Dassault Mirage F1 jets from the French and Spanish Air Force, as well as 12 Atlas Cheetahs (a modernized version of the Dassault Mirage III) from the South African Air Force. The French supersonic fleet is used in Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT).

Once the live S-530 was discovered, the alarm was raised and all facilities neighboring Draken were evacuated, including the whole southeast side of the airport, for about four hours. 

The Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team of the nearby MacDill Air Force Base was called. They safely transported the missile to a munition storage facility, where it will await proper disposal. “It is too big for our range,” Brandon Hanner, a spokesman for the 6th Air Refueling Wing told Military Times. “It will have to be taken off-site to dispose of it.”


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