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Denmark shuts shipping lanes after warning one of their missiles could launch unintentionally

The Danish naval frigate ‘Niels Juel’ docked in Korsoer yesterday following the failed missile test  (EPA)
The Danish naval frigate ‘Niels Juel’ docked in Korsoer yesterday following the failed missile test (EPA)

Denmark closed part of its airspace and one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes on Thursday following a failed missile test.

Vessels were warned not to sail through the Great Belt strait, the main maritime access to the Baltic Sea, after a technical error on a navy vessel close to the Danish coast.

“The problem occurred during a mandatory test where the missile launcher is activated and cannot be deactivated,” the military said in a statement.

“Until the missile launcher is deactivated, there is a risk that the missile can fire and fly a few kilometres away.”

A naval exercise was ongoing in the area, a navigational warning showed.

The warning covered an area some five to seven kilometres of the Great Belt bridge, which crosses the strait. The bridge remained open to traffic, its operator said.

Area of shipping lane and airspace affected by the test failure (Danish Armed Forces)
Area of shipping lane and airspace affected by the test failure (Danish Armed Forces)

The Danish military said the missile was launched from the frigate Niels Juel, which has taken part in Nato exercises after joining its standing naval force last year.

In a statement, the military said the missile failure had been caused by a “technical” problem and that specialists had been deployed to carry out an investigation.

However, until the booster is disabled, “there is a risk that the missile could launch and fly several kilometres away”.

The incident happened during a test of a Harpoon missile, with the military saying the failure affected only the booster, meaning there was no danger of the missile exploding.

Local police were also informed about the incident and ships were asked to wait while the problem was resolved.

Earlier this year the Niels Juel was part of a number of Nato warships that took part in exercises off the UK coast.

HMS Prince of Wales also took part in Joint Warrior, a mission aimed at testing the readiness of the UK Carrier Strike Group and its ability to deter threats.

Nato has ramped up exercises in the waters around Europe since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.