Five Navy RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles have found a new home in the briny depths of the Pacific Ocean after a helicopter dropped them into the water during a vertical replenishment June 17, officials have confirmed.

A MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21 was carrying two containers full of missiles en route to the amphibious assault ship Essex when a rigging failure resulted in the missiles being dropped off the southern California coast, according to Naval Air Forces spokesman Ensign Bryan Blair.

The U.S. Coast Guard has advised civilian mariners to steer clear of the area and a search remains underway this week for the missing missiles, he said.

“There is a very low probability that the missiles will detonate or explode as they were encapsulated for shipping and missing key components for activation,” Blair said. “We remain committed to leveraging all resources, including collaborating with local agencies, to locate and recover the missiles.”

No one was injured and the helicopter sustained no damage in the mishap, which the Naval Safety Command has classified as a Class A mishap, which involves property damage exceeding $2.5 million.

The incident remains under investigation.

Each of the “fire-and-forget” missiles, used for ship defense, measures just more than nine feet long.

Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at geoffz@militarytimes.com.

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