The object found in a ditch near Bourges (see Ares post on Feb. 17) is not a Mistral missile but a narrow, khaki-coloured metal tub with a cone at one end. “This is not a missile,” said French defense ministry spokesman Laurent Tesseire during his weekly briefing. “We would of course have been worried if there had been a Mistral missile on the side of the road. But this is not the case.” He added that the object is in fact “a piece of industrial tooling from the early 80s which belongs to the company which made Mistral missiles” at the time, that is Matra. “It is a calibrating tool with no explosives, no electronics and no classified elements on it,” Tesseire explained.
MBDA, the European missile manufacturer which absorbed Matra and now manufactures the Mistral missiles, later issued a statement giving a few more details. Rather than calling it a tool, the company described the object as a weight and balance model which was used before 1986 by Matra and its sub-contractors to exchange technical data such as size, weight, interface etc. The object "is the model of an early definition of the missile which has subsequently never been produced in this definition," MBDA told me.
MBDA says an investigation is underway to find out who last owned this object and why it ended up in a field.
Sources close to the investigation told me that prior to 1986 such models were not kept tracked of so someone may very well have taken it as a souvenir. The theory is that this person recently died and when his heirs came across the missile model they had no idea what do do with it so just dumped it. Well, what would you do? Go to the police and say "I've just found a missile in grandpa's attic"? Imagine the can of worms that would open.
"It's clear that the object has not been in the field all these years," the sources told me.