- Malfunction occurred just weeks before key Commons vote on Trident renewal
- But Downing Street imposed a ‘news blackout’ about the failed test last June
- Top Tory says David Cameron’s ‘spin’ obsession to blame for cover-up debacle
- No10 confirms Theresa May was briefed on test after becoming Prime Minister
- But spokeswoman says test was purely for submarine and crew and they passed
Theresa May last night faced fresh accusations of a cover-up over the Trident nuclear weapons system as American officials confirmed that a missile test ended in failure.
Just as Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon was refusing to tell Parliament any details about the incident, a US official said the rocket had veered off course during a test-fire in June.
The unnamed official confirmed that the missile’s electronics had detected an ‘anomaly’ and self-destructed.
The row deepened last night after it was claimed that the United States had asked David Cameron’s government to keep details of the alleged failed Trident missile test launch secret.
A British military source told The Times: ‘It was the Obama administration that asked the Cameron administration not to comment on this.
‘The US administration may have been worried that there could be similar problems on other missiles.
‘The British submarine successfully carried and launched the missile; the bit that went wrong was the US proprietary technology.’
Mr Cameron’s office told The Times that it would be inappropriate to comment for reasons of national security.
The disclosure was hugely embarrassing for Mrs May, who was forced to admit for the first time yesterday that she had been briefed about the weapons test.
Although it took place shortly before she came to power, she said had subsequently been made aware of what she described as a ‘successful certification’ of the submarine involved, HMS Vengeance.
But she refused again to say whether she had been briefed about the alleged mis-fire, insisting only that she retained ‘absolute faith’ in Britain’s nuclear deterrent.
Sir Michael also tried to stonewall on the issue yesterday, insisting it was important not to reveal operational details of the test for reasons of national security. He even accused MPs for risking Britain’s safety after they pushed him for answers in the Commons over the issue.
But critics pointed out that previous successful tests of the Trident system had been mentioned in Government press releases and speeches by ministers.