The British Royal Navy was conducting a test of one of its submarine-launched ballistic missiles last summer, when the damn thing ended up heading straight for the United States. Not the Russians. Not the Chinese. Not ISIS. But the tea and crumpet Brits almost hit the US with a missile.
It’s unclear exactly what went wrong with the test that took place on June 20th of last year, as the British government is keeping the details of the failed launch a secret. The Sunday Times, however, is reporting that a top naval source said the missile, which was unarmed at the time of the launch, veered off in the wrong direction towards America:
The Sunday Times can reveal that a Trident II D5 missile — which can kill millions when armed with nuclear warheads — experienced an alarming failure after being launched from a British submarine off the coast of Florida in June last year.
It was the only firing test of a British nuclear missile in four years and raises serious questions about the reliability and safety of the weapons system. The failure prompted a news blackout by Downing Street that has remained in place until this weekend.
Failure to disclose the error was described as “bizarre and stupid” by Admiral Lord West, former first sea lord and chief of the naval staff.
With each missile armed with up to five nuclear warheads, a Trident can kill millions of people. It has a range of more than 4,600 miles.
After whatever it is went wrong actually went wrong, the missile automatically entered into a self-destruct sequence, a U.S. military source told CNN.
There is good reason why the British would want to keep the failed launch secret. First of all, the Trident missile is really the only nuclear deterrent they have, with no air-dropped bombs and no land-based nuclear weapons. Unlike the United States, the United Kingdom has no nuclear triad.
But perhaps more important to those in charge of the British government, less than a month after the failed launch the British parliament voted to renew the Trident program on schedule, instead of abandoning its nuclear deterrent altogether.
It’s fucked up to laugh at, but, of all the people you think would have almost hit Americans in 2016, you’d never think it was the Brits, right? Thing is, the Trident—and Britain’s nuclear submarine force as a whole—are largely considered to be pretty reliable. As the BBC notes, the U.K. has conducted at least six Trident tests since 2000, and we haven’t heard of a single other mishap involving those.
But, you know, given that they could’ve smashed into a nice piece of America, you’d think Prime Minister Teresa May could’ve said, “Our bad. We ain’t tryin’ to kill y’all. We just fucked up. We still good, right?”
I mean, the US did sell the Trident to the Brits. Least they could have done was say we ain’t trying to hit you with them.