Live Missile Found At Lakeland Airport


A live, unarmed French S-530 air-to-air missile was found at Florida’s Lakeland Linder International Airport (LAL) last Friday, prompting a four-hour evacuation of the southeast side of the airport. The missile was part of a shipment delivered to defense contractor Draken International. LAL-based Draken operates a fleet approximately 150 tactical ex-military fighter jets, providing contract air services at locations across the U.S. and internationally.

“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,” Draken International said in a statement. “Adhering to the explosive safety rule of exposing the minimum amount of people for the minimum amount of time to a potential explosive hazard, we made the decision to evacuate the facility, inform our surrounding tenants, and contact the appropriate authorities as soon as possible.”

The 6th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team was dispatched from MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, to secure the missile. The EOD team was assisted by the Lakeland Fire Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The missile was transported to a munitions storage facility at MacDill, where it will be held until it can be safely disposed of.

Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. “Draken operates a fleet approximately 150 tactical ex-military fighter jets”. So what does a civilian contractor need with a military A2A missile?

      • They have the contract for the Air Force fighter school as the adversaries. Kind of like the A-4s in Top Gun. They typically hire x-fighter pilots and have them fly as the “bad guys.”
        Who knows how they received an old missile, but maybe it’s motivation for the guys that are getting ready to flunk? ;>)

  2. Hopefully we’ll get an update. There are lots of unanswered questions. My response was basically – “Wut?”

    • Bob,

      Here’s something for historical perspective.

      In the late ’60s I was a kid assigned to the 68th Field Artillery at Schwabisch Hall in Germany. We operated the MGM-29 Sergeant (semi-ballistic) missile system equipped with the M65 tactical nuclear munition. At that time Germany was divided, and West Germany was riven with Soviet sympathizers who would faithfully record the ID numbers on warhead containers that moved in and out of our storage facility at Schwabisch Gmund. As a countermeasure, the army created a number of “ersatz” warhead containers containing concrete ballast in place of the M65 to confuse the observers. Periodically all the containers were opened and inspected, and the electronics tested on the real M65s. The containers were then resealed and their log books updated.

      As you’ve guessed, one day an M65 log book was discovered in the locker attached to a concrete-ballast container – leading to a frantic, but quiet, search for the missing 200kT warhead. It took awhile before it turned up in a surplus property storage yard. The NCO who signed the log book took a vacation in Kansas.

      All this transpired before my arrival in country and I can’t say how much embellishment took place. But I heard enough come over the transom in Germany, and Snow Hall at Ft. Sill, to understand the occasional misplacement of nuclear ordinance (missile and tube artillery), while not widespread, wasn’t outside the realm of possibility during that era.