A US military jet unexpectedly released a rocket during what was supposed to be a routine training flight near Tucson, Arizona, according to military officials quick to add that the white phosphorus munition hit a deserted area.
An A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft flying a training mission between Tucson and Phoenix “unintentionally released a single M-156 rocket,” Davis-Monthan Air Force Base said in a statement on Thursday, reassuring readers that “the rocket impacted in a desert wash in an uninhabited area” 60 miles northeast of Tucson called the Jackal Military Operations Area.
The M156 warhead is a white phosphorus munition that can cause deep, penetrating burns and kill by inhalation and ingestion, but it is officially used for signaling and was notoriously deployed in Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Gaza, and other places the US doesn’t like. Its use in civilian areas is prohibited, but the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel use its smoke-producing capabilities to justify its application, claiming any disfiguring burns or casualties suffered by civilians in the area are beside the point.
The launch, which happened at approximately 10:40am local time, is being investigated, and there were no reports of injuries, damage or fire immediately forthcoming, though the incoming white phosphorus bomb probably scared the life out of some poor desert lizard.
Was the aircraft just auditioning its desert-bombing skills in the hope of making it to Syria someday? Part of the 354th Fighter Squadron of the 355th Wing, it hasn’t left Arizona in 25 years, according to Air Force documents.