A South Korean maritime patrol airplane lost its entire loadout of live weapons when a crew member accidentally hit the wrong button.
The incident was reported on January 1 by the Yonhap News Agency. The U.S.-made P-3CK Orion maritime patrol aircraft was flying a routine mission over the Sea of Japan when a crew member on board "mistakenly touched the emergency weapons release switch."
|Weapons handlers load Harpoon missile onto an Australian P-3C Orion patrol aircraft. Australian Defence Force photo by ABIS Kayla Hayes, via Department of Defense.
Among the weapons lost were three U.S.-made Harpoon misiles, each of which costs an estimated $1.35 million each. Harpoon is an anti-ship missile with a range of 67 miles and packing a 488 pound warhead. It is the standard anti-ship missile of many U.S. allies. Also dropped was a lightweight anti-submarine torpedo, likely the locally developed Chang Sang Eo ("Blue Shark"). Blue Shark costs approximately $883,000 each. Finally, the sub-chaser lost a depth charge, a relatively inexpensive weapon.
The ordnance lost was probably mounted to the plane's underwing stations. Large aircraft such as the Orion typically have the ability to quickly drop their external stores in order to gain speed, such as when they are being intercepted by enemy fighters.
The South Korean military has sent a minesweeper and a salvage ship to the area to fetch the weapons and pledged it won't drop $5 millions worth of missiles in the future.Popular Mechanics