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The Region

June 19, 1987

Navy divers have been at work off the coast of Southern California for several weeks, hoping to resolve the fate of an advanced Phoenix missile that was lost in the Pacific during an aerial test May 19, when its rocket motor failed to ignite after it was released by an F-14 Tomcat fighter. A Navy spokesman said it has already been determined that the missile was lost because of human error: Ordnance handlers on the ground failed to properly arm the air-to-air dogfighting missile before the plane took off. Navy officials said new evidence suggests that the missile was destroyed after the misfiring. But the Soviet Union routinely dispatches intelligence-gathering vessels into the waters of the test range, which is located to the north of Los Angeles off Point Mugu, and officials acknowledged that the recovery of such a missile by the Soviets would represent a serious setback.

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