A Humvee military vehicle was pushed out of an equipment transporter plane and landed in a residential area – seven miles away from the target.
The three-tonne vehicle came down in an area frequently used by children to play, according to neighbours in Johnsonville, North Carolina.
It landed in the back garden of a property and between two houses, but no one was injured.
Witnesses reported hearing a “boom” as the Humvee landed, before the parachutes designed to slow its fall came down around it.
One eyewitness, Orie Blue, told NBC affiliate WRAL: “I was walking, next thing I know I see one parachute right there and then I heard a boom. I just took off, and didn’t look back.”
Another told ABC11: “After the big bang I turned and looked and saw these big balloons coming towards the house here.
“I panicked ’cause I thought it was going to cover the house or cover me up. I didn’t know what it was.”
“This is the place where our kids play and run,” resident Shatwana Ross told WRAL. “Luckily, they were in school when this happened because that’s normally where they’re at.”
The vehicle had been dropped by a C-17 cargo plane as part of an exercise by soldiers from the Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate.
The aircraft was based at Joint Air Force Base Charleston and the drop zone was supposed to be in Fort Bragg.
A Fort Bragg spokesman blamed an early release at 1,500ft and said the incident was under investigation.
“A load of some kind was released early and we’re looking into how it happened,” said Michael Novogradac, a spokesman for the US army’s Operational Test Command.
Fort Bragg spokesperson Tom McCollum said: “Everything went as planned except for the early release.”
An army ground crew was sent to the scene to recover the vehicle.