Trident missile test a damp squib after rocket goes 'plop,' fails to ignite

UK demonstrates prowess at nuking the ocean

A UK Ministry of Defence spokesperson said that a failed Trident missile test does not affect Britain's nuclear deterrent.

HMS Vanguard leaving HMNB Devonport last year after a seven and a half year refit.

HMS Vanguard leaving HMNB Devonport last year after a seven-and-a-half year refit. Pic: Andrew Linnett, UK MoD © Crown

According to reports, the dummy missile was launched from the submarine HMS Vanguard during a drill off the coast of Florida in January. The booster should have ignited after being ejected from the submarine's launch tube but did not. Instead, it dropped into the ocean and sank.

UK newspaper The Sun, quoted a source as saying: "It left the submarine but it just went plop, right next to them."

It's the second failure in eight years. In 2016, another missile, launched from HMS Vengeance, failed after telemetry problems resulted in the Trident II missile being ditched in the ocean. At least the rocket worked that time.

An MoD spokesperson told The Register:

HMS Vanguard and her crew have been proven fully capable of operating the UK's Continuous At-Sea Deterrent, passing all tests during a recent demonstration and shakedown operation (DASO) - a routine test to confirm that the submarine can return to service following deep maintenance work.

The test has reaffirmed the effectiveness of the UK's nuclear deterrent, in which we have absolute confidence.

During the test an anomaly occurred. As a matter of national security, we cannot provide further information on this, 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. The UK's nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and effective.

According to The Sun, had this been a real mission rather than a test, the launch would have been successful. The MoD is, unsurprisingly, remaining tightlipped about such matters.

Trident missiles aren't cheap, and a failed test that sent millions of pounds worth of missile into the ocean will trigger questions. Compounding the issue was the presence of the UK's defence secretary, Grant Shapps, and Admiral Sir Ben Key to mark what should have been one of the final exercises for HMS Vanguard and her crew. HMS Vanguard returned to sea in 2022 after a nearly seven-year overhaul period.

The UK's strategic nuclear deterrent is provided by four Vanguard-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines – HMS Vanguard, HMS Victorious, HMS Vigilant, and HMS Vengeance. HMS Vanguard was the first to be launched in 1993.

Replacements are due in the 2030s in the form of the Dreadnought class. ®

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