Jan. 22 (UPI) — Prime Minister Theresa May refused Sunday to offered details on the reported failure of an unarmed British Trident missile from a submarine off the coast of Florida last June.
But several members of parliament called for a full investigation of the reported failure and possible coverup weeks before a House of Commons vote on the future of the nuclear missiles.
During an interview with the BBC, May wouldn’t say if she knew about the failure, let alone the test ahead of time. She was asked four times by Andrew Marr whether she knew about the failure before the Commons voted 472-117 in July to spend $53 billion renewing Trident. At the time, she said it would be “an act of gross irresponsibility” for the Britain to abandon its nuclear weapons.
On Sunday, she said “I have absolute faith in our Trident missiles.”
“There are tests that take place all the time, regularly, for our nuclear deterrence,” said May, who became prime minister on July 13, five days before the vote but a month after the test. “What we were talking about in that debate that took place was about the future.”
The Sunday Times reported the Trident II D5 missile veered off course during a test in June last year from the HMS Vengeance toward the United States instead of toward Africa. The missile was unarmed for the planned 5,600-mile test.
The British Navy hadn’t a tested a missile like this one for four years because of the expense of the missile. Britain had upgraded the missile launch equipment and computer systems.
The Ministry of Defense did not give details of the test but said Sunday it was a success.
“In June the Royal Navy conducted a routine, unarmed Trident missile test launch from HMS Vengeance, as part of an operation which is designed to certify the submarine and its crew,” Downing Street and the defense ministry said in a joint statement. “Vengeance and her crew were successfully tested and certified, allowing Vengeance to return into service. We have absolute confidence in our independent nuclear deterrent.”
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, a foe of Trident, said the apparent misfire was a “hugely serious issue.”
She posted on Twitter: “There should be full disclosure of what happened, who knew what/when and why the House of Commons wasn’t told.”
Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn said the reports called for “a serious discussion.” He told Sky News: “It’s a pretty catastrophic error when a missile goes in the wrong direction, and while it wasn’t armed, goodness knows what the consequences of that could have been.