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Denmark says a navy missile with a tech error might launch unintentionally — but won't explode

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Denmark warned Thursday that a technical error on a navy missile might make it launch unintentionally — but not explode — and send fragments falling into Danish waters.

Denmark's armed forces said the technical problem arose on a Harpoon missile on the frigate HDMS Niels Juel during testing at anchor in the Korsoer naval base.

"The launch vehicle, the booster, is activated, and currently cannot be disabled,” the military said in a statement.

The military said the missile is live, but only the booster is activated and there is no danger of the missile exploding or reaching farther than the booster rocket can lift it. It says: “Until the booster is disabled, there is a risk that the missile could launch and fly several kilometers away.”

On its webpage, the Danish Maritime Authority said there was a military drill taking place in the Storebaelt strait between the islands of Zeeland and Funen. The strait is a busy shipping lane connecting the Baltic Sea and the North Sea.

The danger area is estimated to be up to 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) from Korsoer at a height of approximately 1 kilometer (0.62 miles) above sea level and not in the direction of the bridge and tunnel link across the Storebaelt. The link operator said there was no risk to the road and train traffic on the bridge.

Ships in the area have been notified and asked to wait for the problem to be resolved, the armed forces said, adding that the airspace also had been closed.

In 1982, a missile was accidentally misfired from a Danish frigate during a drill and traveled 34 kilometers (21 miles) at low altitude, before exploding. The fireball and subsequent shockwave destroyed four unoccupied summer cottages and caused minor damage to a further 130 buildings in the area. There were no injuries.