UK nuclear missile test fails for second time in eight years

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A British nuclear missile test failed after the Trident weapon crashed into the sea near to the submarine that fired it, in another embarrassing flop after the UK’s last trial launch also failed eight years ago.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed on Tuesday that “an anomaly” occurred during the latest test firing of a Trident 2 ballistic missile, which took place on January 30 off the coast of Florida.

It said Britain’s nuclear deterrent remained “safe, secure and effective”. “As a matter of national security, we cannot provide further information on this,” added the defence ministry.

“However we are confident that the anomaly was event specific, and therefore there are no implications for the reliability of the wider Trident missile systems and stockpile.”

Adding to the embarrassment, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key and defence secretary Grant Shapps were onboard HMS Vanguard to witness the test launch in January.

The crew on the submarine had just performed their drills and the Trident 2 missile, which was armed with dummy warheads, was propelled into the air with compressed gas in the launch tubes, according to The Sun newspaper, which first reported the story.

But the missile’s first-stage boosters did not ignite and the weapon crashed into the sea nearby.

The Sun reported that it was understood that had the firing taken place on a real mission rather than under test conditions, it would have been successful.

Ministers are expected to make a statement about what happened to the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Despite the failed Trident launch, the defence ministry said it retained “absolute confidence” in the UK’s nuclear deterrent.

British officials said the Trident missile system was “one of the most reliable weapons system in the world” and had successfully completed 190 tests. The UK’s last successful launch of a Trident missile took place in 2012.

The 2016 Trident test failure was reportedly due to a problem with the “data acquisition system” that forced the missile’s controllers to divert the weapon into the ocean as a safety precaution.

The latest failed test launch comes after Shapps recently described the UK as being in a “prewar” phase.

Yet after decades of budget cuts, the readiness of Britain’s armed forces is increasingly coming into question, most recently by the Commons defence committee.

In a recent report, it said the UK armed forces were overstretched and in a peer-to-peer conflict would exhaust their capabilities in a “couple of months”.

In another recent mishap, one of the UK’s two state-of-the-art aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, was kept back from participating in the largest Nato military exercise since the cold war due to a malfunction with one of its propeller shafts. It was replaced by HMS Prince of Wales.

HMS Vanguard is one of the four nuclear-powered submarines used by the UK to silently patrol the world’s oceans and maintain the country’s continuous nuclear deterrent.

Commissioned into service in the mid-1990s, the Vanguard class submarines are due to be replaced with the next generation Dreadnought class in the 2030s.

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