The British government has been accused of hiding the failed test firing of a Trident nuclear missile.
The incident happened just weeks before a crucial Commons vote to renew the submarine-launched missile system.
According to a report by the Sunday Times citing a senior naval source, a Trident II D5 missile fired last year from a Royal Navy nuclear submarine off the Florida coast malfunctioned and headed to the mainland during a routine test.
“There was a major panic at the highest level of government and the military after the first test of our nuclear deterrent in four years ended in disastrous failure,” the source said.
MP’s backed the renewal of the Trident missile system in July 2016, one month after the test was covered up.
Press TV reports:
May, who was Home Secretary at the time of the test, decided to keep members of the Parliament in dark about the issue when she became the new premier.
The new PM at the time had made no mention of the test failure in her first major speech in July, where she tried to persuade the MPs to authorize a 40 billion pound plan for producing new Trident submarines.
On Sunday, when BBC asked May four times whether she knew about the test before she made that speech, the prime minister simply dodged the questions and did not give a direct answer.
“I have absolute faith in our Trident missiles. When I made that speech in the House of Commons what we were talking about was whether or not we should renew our Trident, whether or not we should have Trident missiles,” she said.
“There are tests that take place all the time, regularly for our nuclear deterrent,” she added.
Meanwhile, the prime minister’s office and Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in a joint statement that the Royal Navy’s test was carried out by the HMS Vengeance nuclear submarine, as part of an operation to certify the submarine and its crew.
The statement did not confirm or reject the failure, arguing, “We do not provide further details on submarine operations for obvious national security reasons.”
According to the Times, the UK has only tested five submarine-launched Tridents this century, mainly because the US-made weapons cost £17 million apiece.
The misfire has drawn criticism from the Labour Party and its leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has called for a discussion.
“People on both sides of the argument on Trident would have expected that to be reported to parliament and the fact that Theresa May didn’t is extremely worrying and I think questions have to be asked about that,” John McDonnell, the opposition leader’s financial spokesman, told BBC.