Helicopter Failure Drops U.S. Missiles Into Ocean, Prompts Navy Search

The U.S. Navy is searching for two containers of missiles that fell off of a helicopter into the Pacific Ocean, officials reported.

An MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21 on June 17 was on the way to the assault ship Essex when two containers carrying five Navy RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles fell out of the aircraft and into the sea below.

The Navy stated that the containers fell out due to a "rigging failure," dropping out somewhere near the southern California coast.

Navy spokesperson Brian O'Rourke told San Diego news source KNSD that the missiles are missing parts and it is very unlikely that they will detonate underwater.

U.S. Navy Conducts Carrier Qualification Training Aboard
The U.S. Navy is searching for two containers of missiles that fell out of a helicopter into the Pacific Ocean, officials confirmed. In this photo, a U.S. Navy helicopter descends to land on the flight deck of the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) aircraft carrier while at sea on January 18, 2020, off the coast of Baja California, Mexico. Mario Tama/Getty Images

The Navy also released a statement which read, according to KNSD: "The U.S. Navy has not placed any time constraints on the effort to locate the missing ordnance. We remain committed to leveraging all resources, including collaborating with local agencies, to locate and recover the missiles."

Naval Air Forces spokesman Ensign Bryan Blair reiterated to Navy Times that the missiles are not likely to detonate, "as they were encapsulated for shipping and missing key components for activation," Blair said. He also added that the U.S. Coast Guard asked that civilians avoid that area of the ocean for the time being as the Navy continues to search for the missing missiles.

The Naval Safety Command has classified the incident as a class A mishap, which involves property damage exceeding $2.5 million, Navy Times reported. Beyond the loss of the weapons, there were no reported injuries and no other reports of damage to the helicopter.

Newsweek reached out to the U.S. Navy Air Force for additional comment.

The Navy suffered another recent incident that proved more costly than losing the missiles. In early June, a U.S. Navy pilot named Lieutenant Richard Bullock was killed when his F/A-18E Super Hornet crashed near Trona, in San Bernardino County. Bullock had been flying a routine training mission at the time before his aircraft went down in a remote part of the desert.

In a separate incident, a Navy Special Warfare sailor died and four others were injured in a car crash close to Camp Billy Machen in Niland, California, and in March, another Navy plane crashed off the coast of Virginia, which killed one person and caused two injuries.