Officials issue warnings after canister lost
Stars and Stripes March 12, 2008
RAF MILDENHALL, England — Air Force officials here warned locals Tuesday to avoid a bread-box shaped canister containing explosives that fell from a plane during a training mission Monday.
A “chaff canister” used to thwart radar-guided missiles fell off an MC-130 aircraft belonging to the 352nd Special Operations Group as it traveled throughout the U.K. on Monday, according to a release Tuesday by Mildenhall representatives.
The canister holds “small bundles of metallic chaff” and “small explosive charges,” the release states. The canister fell off the plane while it was on a training mission across a broad swath of the U.K.
The aircraft went west from Mildenhall to Wales, and north to the Spadeadam Range near the English-Scottish border.
The 352nd flight took it on a course “along the greater part of the U.K. coastal perimeter,” Lt. Col. Tom Konicki of the 3rd Air Force said in a statement to local police on Monday.
“Officials urge anyone finding objects with government markings to please report the find to their local constabulary,” he said in the statement.
Konicki urged anyone who comes across the canister to not use any “electrical transmitting device” such as a mobile phone within 35 feet of the item.
The canisters are triggered by electrical charges and there’s an “extremely remote chance” that a cell phone could set it off. However, the pressure needed to discharge the canister’s contents is less than that of an airbag, said 2nd Lt. Kathleen Ferrero, a spokesman for Mildenhall’s main tenant unit, the 100th Air Refueling Wing.
“Even if a person was standing 5 feet in front of those holes it wouldn’t hurt them,” she said.
A search for the canister is not being conducted, according to Ferrero.
“The aircraft flew over both land and sea, so there is no way to know where it fell off,” she said.
Air Force officials notified Suffolk police Monday regarding the lost canister, but did not inform the media until Tuesday.
However, some British media reported on the canister Monday after the Suffolk police issued information.
The 352nd SOG is investigating how and why the canister fell off the plane, according to Ferrero.
Approximately 900 airmen are based with the 352nd at Mildenhall.
Calls to the Special Operations Command-Europe regarding the canisters, how frequently such drops occur and potential complications were not returned by Stripes’ deadline.