Amid a slew of headlines regarding the ailing state of the German military, a mishap aboard the FGS Sachsen last week saw an American made SM-2 missile fail to clear its launch tube when fired, creating a spectacular fireball that injured two sailors and caused extensive damage to the ship.
The vessel, accompanied by the German Frigate FGS Lubeck, was conducting routine training operations off the coast of Norway near the Arctic Circle when the crew attempted to fire a Standard Missile (SM) 2 Block IIIA from one of its on-board Mk.41 vertical launch system silos. For reasons that remain unclear, the missile failed to clear the launch tube, resulting is a spectacular fire as the engine burns out. It’s difficult to assess in the footage if the explosion is the result of the engine firing or if the ordnance itself exploded, but in either case, the fire was out after just seconds, but the damage was none the less extensive.
The German Navy has not provided any information thus far that could shed light on the cause of the failure, though in the footage, which was captured by sailors on the nearby FGS Lubeck, it seems clear that something prevented the missile from escaping its silo. Severe as the damage was, had the missile detonated internally, it could potentially have set off the frigates full suite of 32 missiles, resulting in catastrophic damage and likely the loss of the vessel. The Mark 41 silos were designed and built to function even after taking damage, thanks in large part to internal and external armor protections, but the 15-foot-long, 1,500-pound SM-2 could potentially pack enough punch to breach that protection, even without the kinetic force of an impact to help.
Instead, the bow of the vessel received a severe scorching, as well as the outside of the bridge and the Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) launcher. Two sailors were listed as having received “minor injuries” but no further information has been released regarding their duty status.
The Standard Missile-2 (or SM-2) is a Raytheon produced platform intended for use as an anti-air weapon. Used in Navies around the world, Raytheon claims to have successfully tested the missile aboard ships 2,700 times. Raytheon had actually halted production of the somewhat dated platform back in 2013, but is the process of restarting manufacturing due to increased demand from American allies in nations like Japan, Span, and Germany.
An SM-2 also exploded during training when launched from the USS The Sullivans in July of 2015. The missile successfully made it out of the tube before detonating however, causing approximately $100,000 worth of damage.
Watch the video below to see the explosion (and to learn some creative German profanity):
Feature image screen capped from YouTube video