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NNSL Photo/Graphic

An F18 similar to this lost a missile on approach to the Yellowknife Airport. The missile landed on a nearby golf course resulting in the cancellation of a NWT Housing Corporation golf tournament.

Fighter jet drops missile

Daniel T'seleie
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (June 21/04) - A 500-pound missile from a CF-18 fighter jet fell on Yellowknife, Friday.

The military aircraft, en route from Cold Lake, Alta., to Inuvik, was preparing to land and re-fuel at Yellowknife Airport when an AIM-7 Sparrow detached and landed on the Yellowknife golf course driving range.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

The AIM-7 Sparrow is an air-to-air missile containing a high-explosive warhead, according to a U.S. Air Force fact sheet.

With a solid fuel rocket motor, it travels at mach 2.5 and is radar guided. It has a 50 mile range and is capable of attacking high performance aircraft.

The AIM-7 is 12 feet long and weighs 500 pounds. One AIM-7 costs approximately $125,000.

The missile's warhead weighs 40 kilograms, said Sara Hammond, spokesperson for the missile's manufacturer Raytheon Co.

"The Sparrow (missile) family dates back to 1956," Hammond said.

The AIM-7 first saw use in the early 1980's, Hammond said.

The AIM-7 Sparrow is no longer manufactured by Raytheon, but is still common around the world.

"A lot of nations have chosen to keep them as part of their arsenal," Hammond said.

Raytheon Co. still services the AIM-7 Sparrow model for its customers.

"We're helping our customers keep (the missiles) up to date and serviceable," Hammond said.

The inactivated missile fell approximately 1,500 feet. The missile had explosives, but they did not detonate. No one was injured.

"The missile was a live missile, but it was safetied," said Rob Carter, detachment commander of 441 Squadron and a CF-18 pilot.

The incident is under investigation and a cause has not been released.

"As soon as (the missile) came off (the pilot) had indication in the cockpit that something had happened," Carter said.

Personnel in the airport tower also noticed something had fallen from the plane. Airport manager Michel Lafrance was notified at 7:10 a.m.

"Immediately, my concern was to try to locate it," Lafrance said.

The decision was made to close a portion of Highway 3 for more than an hour and evacuate tenants in the area including "diamond row," the golf course and the GNWT seismic station.

Boat access to Long Lake was also restricted because "people can access the golf course" from Long Lake, said Lafrance.

Gloomy golfers

The NWT Housing Corporation's golf tournament scheduled for Friday had to be cancelled due to the incident.

"It's a shame that we have to shut down, but there's a bomb out there," said Russ Anderson, president of the Yellowknife Golf Club.

MLA Dave Ramsay received several complaints from Yellowknifers and feels the situation was not handled properly.

"People don't know what's going on," Ramsay said. "There's lots of rumours and speculation."

Reparations should be made for the loss of weekend golf business, says Ramsay.

"I think the military should reimburse the golf course," Ramsay says.