What was supposed to be a routine Air Force training mission has grabbed headlines after a fighter jet accidentally unleashed part of its pay load over a desert in Arizona.
An Air Force statement said an A-10C Thunderbolt II or 'Warthog' was conducting a training mission in a military area between Phoenix and Tucson when it mistakenly fired rocket. The aircraft "unintentionally released a single M-156 rocket" at about 10:40 a.m. during a training mission, the statement said.
The unauthorized release of the M-156 rocket in an area not designated for live fire landed over Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in a remote desert area, specifically at a remote desert wash near Mount Graham.
"This training area is not designated for munitions release," the Air Force said.“The rocket impacted in a desert wash in an uninhabited area” the statement added.
An investigation said no injuries or structures were damaged in the incident. The Warthog jet involved is described as assigned to the 354th Fighter Squadron of the 355th Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan in Tucson.
Alarmingly, the missile is being described having a white phosphorus payload. As CBS described:
They say there were no injuries, damage or fires from the accidental launch of the white phosphorus projectile in the Jackal Military Operations Area, which is about 60 miles northeast of Tucson. White phosphorus is used by the military in various types of ammunition to produce smoke for concealing troop movement and to identify targets.
Needless to say such a munition dropped over or near a city would have been disastrous.
When deployed white phosphorus can cause skin to melt down to the bone, and further is able to stick to clothing and the body, continuing to burn unchecked as more particles are exposed to the air.
The chemical substance can by used in shells and grenades, similar to Napalm, and creates spontaneous explosive fire in a broad area.