WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- An inert U.S. Hellfire missile that had been missing since 2014 was found in Cuba after it was possibly misrouted on its way to Europe.
Federal authorities have tried for more than a year to convince the Cuban government to return the Hellfire missile, which are designed to be dropped from helicopters as anti tank weapons and have since been used to carry out drone attacks.
It is a "dummy missile" that was not fitted with explosives, but did contain sensors and targeting technology that Cuba could share with other nations making it a concern for United States authorities.
"This is an issue that the administration takes very, very seriously. I think for quite obvious reasons," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday.
The missile, which originated in Orlando, Fla., was sent to Spain for a NATO training exercise in 2014. It was scheduled to be shipped to Germany and then returned to Orlando. Instead, the weapon was misrouted to Paris and then to Havana, Cuba.
While the process of such international shipping is fairly routine, the misrouting has spurred an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security to determine whether the incident was a simple mistake or an intentional act of espionage.
"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," a U.S. official told the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the discovery, calling the incident one of the worst-known losses of sensitive military technology of its kind.