British ‘Errant Missile’ Reportedly Headed to Florida Instead of Africa

A Trident II missile fires its first stage after an underwater launch from a Royal Navy
A Trident II missile fires its first stage after an underwater launch from a Royal Navy

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.

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 Force 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.

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.

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SOURCE: USA Today; Florida Today, John McCarthy