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NATO missile failure blocks traffic in Baltic strait

Denmark has suspended navigation in the Great Belt over a technical problem with a warship

A malfunctioning missile launcher on board a Royal Danish Navy frigate caused a six-hour closure of the Great Belt strait on Thursday.

HDMS Niels Juel, named after a 17th-century Danish admiral, was moored at the Korsoer naval base on the island of Zeeland. The vessel was performing a test while at anchor when the crew noticed a problem with the Harpoon anti-ship missile system. The missile’s booster became active and could not be switched off.

“Until the booster is disabled, there is a risk that the missile could launch and fly several kilometers away,” the Danish military said in a statement.

The National Maritime Authority issued a warning, closing the airspace and the shipping lane west of the Korsoer naval station due to the possible risk of “falling missile fragments.” The US-designed Harpoon is usually armed with a warhead containing 150kg of explosives.

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Specialists deployed on board carried out a series of diagnostics and eventually established that the booster was not armed, so the missile could not launch.

The incident with Niels Juel came just a day after Denmark’s top officer was fired for failing to report another naval malfunction. Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen announced on Wednesday he had “lost trust” in General Flemming Lentfer.

Lentfer allegedly did not inform Copenhagen of the fact that the radar and the missile systems of HMDS Iver Huitfeldt had failed when it came under attack off the coast of Yemen recently.

The Danish frigate was deployed to the Red Sea as part of an EU mission to protect international shipping from the Houthi rebels, who have blockaded Israeli-linked ships – as well as US and UK merchant vessels – in protest over the siege of Gaza.

 

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