The Matra Air-To-Air Missile seized by the Italian Police two years ago was not being prepared for a terrorist attack but about to be turned into a piece of furniture.
As some of our readers may remember, in July 2019, during a raid against a neo-nazi gang, the antiterrorism section of DIGOS (Italian acronym for General Investigations and Special Operations Division), a specialized unit of the Polizia di Stato (Italian State Police), seized several weapons including 20 guns, nine assault rifles, one submachine gun, three hunting rifles and seven pistols, 20 bayonets, 306 gun parts, 831 bullets of various calibers, an F-104 cockpit simulator and, above all, a Matra R.530F radar-guided air-to-air missile!
The missile was an R.530 F20 version with serial number 5284, belonging to the production lot 83 and sold to the Government of Qatar on Oct. 10, 1980. The missile was then sold by Qatar in 1994 in a deal that included 40 Matra Super 530 missiles to a “friendly nation” that has remained unnamed.
The captured Matra R530 sported a yellow band, that marked it as a “live” (carrying an explosive warhead), and a red band, highlighting the presence of rocket fuel; however, during the inspection, it was found that the warhead was missing.
The investigators found the missile in a warehouse in northern Italy as the gang tried to sell it to an unknown client for 470,000 Euro. Back then, it was speculated that the missile could be used to prepare an attack on the then Italy’s Deputy PM Matteo Salvini. In the following months, the Matra R530F became the focal point of a complex investigation.
Two years later, the investigation has eventually found out that not only was the missile inert, but it has also been deprived of all the internal cabling and parts needed to activate it, and therefore it can’t be neither used nor restored according to the prosecutors.
“The missile has now become a mere empty simulacrum and, contrary to what some of the suspects boasted, assumes a value only as a (perhaps bizarre) piece of furniture”, the investigating judge underlined, accepting the request to dismiss the case.
The Matra R530 has been released from seizure and will probably appear in some collector’s man cave, garage or lounge.
BTW, another Matra Super 530 short to medium range air-to-air missile, with a live warhead in that case, turned up mysteriously at the Lakeland-Linder Airport southwest of Lakeland in Polk County, Florida, one year after the Italian one was seized, on August 14, 2020. The missile, with markings that indicated it may have originated from the Royal Jordanian Air Force, was discovered by an employee of Draken International, a privately-owned contract adversary simulation company that provides fighter jets, pilots and support crews to act as adversaries to U.S. and allied air arms in training exercises.
The Matra Super 530 missile discovered at Lakeland, live but unarmed, was secured by an Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit and the Lakeland Fire Department and then disposed.