Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I Think I Got One

A commercial fisherman unveiled a curious catch when he returned from an expedition through the Gulf of Mexico this week: A corroded missile that had been fired from an F-15 fighter jet.

Fisherman Rodney Salomon hooked the missile about 50 miles off the Panhandle town of Panama City and then kept it on his boat, the Broad Venture, for ten days. Salomon hoped to keep it as a souvenir, but took precautions because he didn't know if it was live.

"I had it secure. I keep it cool," he said, adding that he packed it with ice.

Local authorities first said the projectile was live and unstable, but Eglin Air Force Base later said it was a telemetry missile that carried no explosives. Still, the MacDill Air Force Base Bomb Squad inspected and dismantled the missile after Salomon returned to port on Monday evening in Madeira Beach, near St. Petersburg.

Eglin spokesman Samuel King said the bomb squad was needed to retrieve and dispose of sensitive technology used to measure and transmit data on the missile, which was fired in August 2004 from an F-15 fighter jet during a test.

"Once we found out it was ours, our guidance was that it needed to be destroyed," King said.

The Air Force and Navy use Gulf waters off the Panhandle for weapons training. King said that the weapons evaluation group tests about 300 missiles over the Gulf each year.

Salomon told authorities he had seen other missiles in the same area and asked if he could keep his catch once it had been dismantled. The request was denied.

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