HMS Vigilant, one of the UK's Trident nuclear missile submarines, has been forced to dock for repairs at a US naval base having damaged its rudder in the Atlantic Ocean.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has confirmed that problems occurred as the submarine was returning to its home berth at the Faslane naval base on the Clyde after conducting a test-firing of a Trident missile off the coast of Florida on 23 October.
The submarine limped back to the US naval base at Kings Bay, Georgia, home to US Trident submarines, where it is stranded while the broken rudder is being repaired. The submarine is expected to remain there over the Christmas period.
Vigilant left the Devonport naval dockyard in March 2012 following a three year mid-life refit which cost over £300 million. Since then the submarine has been undergoing a series of sea trials and demonstration operations culminating in the Trident missile launch, and was then scheduled to return to Faslane to recommence operational nuclear patrols. Critics have questioned how a submarine that had just undergone an extensive and expensive overhaul could immediately suffer from a defect to its rudder.
The damage to the rudder is believed to have been caused by debris at sea, although this has not been confirmed by the MoD. "While returning to the UK after the successful firing of an unarmed Trident II D5 missile, HMS Vigilant suffered a defect to her rudder," an MoD spokesman said. "This is not nuclear-related and the crew and boat have safely returned to port where the defect is being assessed."