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Target Practice

Picture this: It’s late one evening when you finally finish the last of the day’s repair work. Realizing you skipped lunch to get some extra work done, you get the hankering for a big sandwich – loaded with corned beef and condiments. As you’re about to return the now empty jar of mustard to the lunchroom refrigerator, you hear a noise. A loud noise. A really, really loud noise.


“What the #@*! was that?” you wonder. “It sounded like a missile just hit a truck!”

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It did.

One summer evening while Australian body shop owner Tony Travers was fixing a late-night meal, he heard a crash. A really, really loud crash. Familiar with the sound of vehicles colliding – and realizing this noise wasn’t like that – he figured something had landed on the roof of his shop. So he called the police.

When the authorities finally arrived, they were in as much disbelief as Travers.

There, among the other less-damaged vehicles parked in his lot, was a now flattened truck. Somehow – authorities have yet to determine the how – a dummy missile fell from a defense training aircraft and landed atop a truck parked in Travers’ lot.


“When I first spied the car smashed to a thousand pieces, I just looked in disbelief,” says Travers. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Australia’s defense department has launched an investigation into how the dummy missile, which fell from an FA-18 Hornet aircraft preparing to land at an airport after a late night training exercise, landed on the truck. According to Paul Lineham, a defense department spokesman, there’s no way a dummy missile could be released by the aircraft’s pilot, so they’re still trying to establish just how it worked its little self free. (And you thought it was difficult to explain why repairs aren’t going to be completed on schedule.)


“We’re mystified,” says Lineham. “This has never happened in Australia since these devices went into service in the late 1980s.”

Dummy missiles are two meters long (about 6 1/2 feet) and weigh more than 280 pounds. They’re used by the defense department to simulate the drag of an actual missile on an aircraft.

Though explaining the damage to the vehicle’s owner was probably a bit difficult, Travers says he’s just happy to be alive after seeing how the training missile flattened the truck.

“I haven’t been able to sleep,” he says. “I just keep picturing this missile landing on the workshop.”

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