An investigation is under way after a 9ft missile was fired from HMS Argyll at high security Plymouth nuclear submarine dockyard during training drill.
Military chiefs have launched a major investigation after a Royal Navy warship accidentally fired a torpedo at a nuclear dockyard.
HMS Argyll was moored at Devonport Naval base in Plymouth when the 9ft missile suddenly shot out of its starboard side during a training drill.
Workers watched in disbelief as the tube-shaped projectile flew through the air before blasting a hole in a security fence and slamming into a storage container.
The torpedo was an unarmed version used for testing drills so it merely thudded into the metal container and did not explode.
Nobody was hurt but shocked Navy bosses ordered an urgent investigation into the incident that took place inside a high security area where Britain’s nuclear submarines are refuelled and repaired.
HMS Argyll is currently the oldest serving Duke Type 23 frigate in the Royal Navy having been launched in 1989.
But the 4,900 tonne vessel underwent a £20million refit in 2009 to ensure her weaponry was at the cutting edge of naval warfare.
Its armaments include sea wolf anti-aircraft missiles, harpoon launchers, a 4.5 inch mk8 cannon and two twin 12.75 inch sting ray torpedo tubes.
The self-propelled torpedoes are armed with 45kg warheads to take out enemy submarines that they lock onto with acoustic homing sensors.
A source said: “The torpedo came shooting out of the side of Argyll and flew through the air before going straight through a security fence.
“It’s carried on going before hitting a storage container. If anyone was inside it they would have a had a nasty shock – the whole side of the container was stoved in.
“Had the thing been armed it would have let out a 200-metre blast. You could be talking about a major loss of life.
“The Navy guys and the civilian dock workers are understandably appalled by what has happened.
“Someone has obviously pushed the button, presumably by accident – the big question is who.”
HMNB Devonport is one of three UK operating bases for the Royal Navy and the biggest naval base in western Europe.
The 650-acre facility is also the sole nuclear repair and refuelling facility for the Royal Navy.
It’s also close to homes, boatyards and the popular Plymouth Barbican area, packed with restaurants and bars.
A spokesman for the Royal Navy said: “We can confirm an incident occurred onboard HMS Argyll on Wednesday 12th. The ship was alongside at Devonport Naval Base in Plymouth.
“During a training exercise, an inert Test Variant Torpedo unexpectedly jettisoned onto the wharf. There was no explosion and no casualties.
“An investigation is now under way to determine the cause of the incident. The torpedo is not an explosive hazard.
“The specific details of the incident are subject to further investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment further.
“The result of the investigation will determine what actions will be necessary to avoid any repeat of this incident in the future.
“However, torpedo system test firing alongside in the naval base has been suspended subject to completion of the investigation.”