US Report: British 'errant missile' headed toward Florida

06:05  25 january  2017
06:05  25 january  2017 Source:   USA TODAY SPORTS

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In this file photo dated Monday, Dec. 4, 1989, a Trident II missile launched by the U.S. Navy during a performance evaluation from the submerged submarine USS Tennessee in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape Canaveral. According to Britain's Sunday Times newspaper published Sunday Jan. 22, 2017, an unarmed nuclear test missile fired by a British submarine off the coast of Florida in 2016, misfired and the failure was allegedly covered up ahead of a debate in Parliament on the future of the Trident missile system. British Prime Minister Theresa May has refused to say whether she knew about the reported failure. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin, FILE) © PHIL SANDLIN, ASSOCIATED PRESS In this file photo dated Monday, Dec. 4, 1989, a Trident II missile launched by the U.S. Navy during a performance evaluation from the submerged submarine USS Tennessee in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape Canaveral. According to Britain's Sunday Times newspaper published Sunday Jan. 22, 2017, an unarmed nuclear test missile fired by a British submarine off the coast of Florida in 2016, misfired and the failure was allegedly covered up ahead of a debate in Parliament on the future of the Trident missile system. British Prime Minister Theresa May has refused to say whether she knew about the reported failure. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin, FILE)

MELBOURNE, Fla. — The Sunday Times of London reported over the weekend that an unarmed ballistic missile launched from a British submarine last June experienced a malfunction and headed toward Florida rather than toward open waters off the coast of Africa.

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All such launches by the U.S. and British navies occur off the shores of Cape Canaveral under the control of the Naval Ordnance Test Unit at Port Canaveral. The purpose of such "Demonstration and Shakedown Operations" are "to evaluate and demonstrate the readiness of a (submarine's) strategic weapon system and crew before operational deployment following its midlife refueling overhaul," according to the Navy.

The Vengeance, the British submarine, completed a four-year-long overhaul in 2015, according to the Royal Navy.

The Sunday Times report and subsequent follow-ups by other media outlets didn’t give any details about where off the Florida coast the launch of the Trident missile occurred. However, all such test launches use the Eastern Range run from Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Fore Station to monitor missile trajectory. Range officials have the ability to destroy any rocket or missile that poses a threat to the public. Tests are made with unarmed missiles.

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Neither the U.S. nor British navies have confirmed the report of the failed test launch.

A recent report from the 45th Space Wing, which controls the Eastern Range, indicated that it supported a Trident launch on June 20, 2016. According to the Associated Press, a British defense ministry blog indicated there was a "routine unarmed missile test launch from the HMS Vengeance" in June.

The Navy did not return phone calls or emails from Florida Today seeking further information.

The same month the supposed failed launch attempt occurred, NOTU unveiled a new facility to support its mission in testing submarine-based missiles.

"As systems for the next U.K. strategic missile submarine are developed, they will be installed and tested here," said Rear Admiral Keith Beckett, chief strategic systems executive for the Royal Navy, who attended the ceremony.

The Trident II D5, built by Lockheed Martin, is the latest generation of submarine-launched nuclear missiles. It is carried aboard U.S. Ohio-class and British Vanguard-class submarines. It has a range of 4,000 nautical miles.

Missile failure off Florida? British leader won't say

  Missile failure off Florida? British leader won't say Britain's prime minister refused to say Sunday whether she knew about an unarmed missile that reportedly failed when it was test-fired off the coast of Florida last year. Theresa May told BBC she has total confidence in Britain's Trident nuclear deterrence system, but didn't confirm or deny a newspaper report about the alleged failure of a ballistic missile designed to carry nuclear warheads.The prime minister was asked about the missile test after the Sunday Times reported that an unarmed missile launched from a submarine off Florida's coast in June veered off course and may have headed toward the U.S.

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Lockheed Martin says the Trident II D5 has been successfully tested more than 150 times since it was introduced in 1990, a “record unmatched by any other large ballistic missile or space launch vehicle,” according to the company’s website.

While the U.S. Navy frequently tests its Trident missiles, the British navy has only done so five times since 2000, according to the Sunday Times report. It cited the cost of 17 million British pounds — or about $21 million — per test launch as the reason for infrequent tests.

Concerns in England are that the British Prime Minister Theresa May withheld information about the failed test from the British parliament as she persuaded it to approve spending 40 billion British pounds on new Trident submarines in June.

“If there are problems, they should not have been covered up in this ham-fisted way. Ministers should come clean if there are problems and there should be an urgent inquiry into what happened,” former British defense minister Kevan Jones told the Sunday Times.

Follow John McCarthy on Twitter: @JournalistJohnM

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