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Trident missiles are reliable and nuclear weapons can be fired if needed, govt insists

The UK’s nuclear deterrent “remains effective, dependable and formidable” – despite a Trident missile misfiring during a recent test, the government has said.

In a statement, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed “an anomaly did occur” when a rare operation was held on HMS Vanguard on 30 January – but stressed this was “event specific”.

“Nor are there any implications for our ability to fire our nuclear weapons, should the circumstances arise in which we need to do so,” Mr Shapps said.

Undated handout photo issued by the Ministry of Defence of a still image taken from video of the missile firing from HMS Vigilant, which fired an unarmed Trident II (D5) ballistic missile. Boris Johnson is set to raise the cap on Britain's stockpile of Trident nuclear warheads ending three decades of gradual disarmament, it has been reported. Issue date: Tuesday March 16, 2021.
Image: An unarmed Trident II (D5) ballistic missile firing from HMS Vigilant at an unknown date. Pic: PA

His statement added: “The Trident missile system remains the most reliable weapons system in the world, having successfully completed more than 190 tests.”

Mr Shapps said the government has “absolute confidence” in the UK’s nuclear deterrent – and there are “no implications for the reliability of the wider Trident missile systems and stockpiles”.

He went on to warn: “The UK’s resolve and capability to use its nuclear weapons, should we ever need to do so, remains beyond doubt.”

The fault had something to do with it being a test-firing, with a source saying that the launch would have been successful had it been carried out for real with a nuclear warhead.

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The Sun newspaper first revealed the drama, saying Mr Shapps had been onboard the submerged submarine at the time.

Secretary of State for Defence Grant Shapps looks on as he gives a speech at Lancaster House
Image: Defence Secretary Grant Shapps. Pic: Reuters

It is the second Trident missile failure in a row for the Royal Navy‘s ageing nuclear weapons fleet after a problem with another test-firing in 2016.

The UK has four nuclear-armed submarines. The country’s nuclear deterrent requires at least one of them to be continuously at sea to deter nuclear threats from enemies such as Russia and to be ready to respond should the worst happen and the UK or its allies face a nuclear attack.

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