Missile Drill Momentarily Triggers False 'Air Attack' Alarm at Ramstein Air Base

A worker performs maintenance work on a public announcement system on Ramstein Air Base, Germany
A worker performs maintenance work on a public announcement system on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on Aug. 8, 2017. Public announcement loudspeakers are used on installations throughout the Air Force as a way to notify the public of emergencies and exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Magbanua)

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- Americans living on and near Ramstein Air Base may have thought 2020 was about to pack yet another punch when sirens wailed and the "giant voice" shouted to take cover because of an incoming aerial attack.

Sirens sounded on the base's loudspeaker system Saturday morning, followed by the warning: "Aerial attack, aerial attack, seek cover, seek cover."

Missing were the words that typically accompany such messages -- "Exercise, Exercise, Exercise" -- sending some who heard the giant voice into a momentary panic.

A Russian nuclear submarine's test-firing of four intercontinental ballistic missiles -- launched from the western Pacific region -- was likely the trigger for a brief real-world scare in the Kaiserslautern military community Saturday.

The Russian dummy warheads hit their targets in the Arkhangelsk region in northwestern Russia more than 3,400 miles away, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement, according to The Associated Press.

The warning "made my heart skip a beat for a second," said a comment on Ramstein Air Base's official Facebook page Saturday.

Another person responded: "me too I ran into the [base exchange] and started yelling at folks to take cover."

The 86th Airlift Wing said on Facebook that its command post "was notified via an alert notification system of a real-world missile launch in the European theater."

The all-clear was given after the missile launch was "assessed to be part of a training exercise and not a threat to the KMC area," the Air Force said in the post, while thanking command post members "for their quick response."

Air Force officials Monday would not say exactly why the alarm was triggered.

U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa said Monday that "the control center followed proper procedures ... to provide rapid and accurate notifications to all required personnel," both when the initial alert was received and "within minutes" after the missile launch was determined to be part of a training exercise.

"We consistently and routinely monitor for any threats to our forces and our allies," USAFE spokeswoman Erica Vega said in a statement.

At least one person took the false alarm in stride and thanked the command post on Facebook for "keeping Team Ramstein on their toes," adding: "The commissary might need to restock TP after that warning."

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