Danish Harpoon Oops-shot

During some of the coldest days of the Cold War, some 40 years ago today, at 1128 on 6 September 1982 the Royal Danish Navy fregatten Peder Skram (F352) accidentally fired a newly-installed Harpoon anti-ship missile during maneuvers in the Kattegat some 10 nm northeast of the Zealand Odde.

The missile traveled 21 miles at a low level over the remarkably flat country, severing several power transmission lines before striking some trees in the Lumsås-Sønderstrand community, after which it detonated about 20 feet off the ground. The fireball and subsequent shock wave from its 488-pound warhead and remaining fuel destroyed four unoccupied summer cottages and damaged a further 130 buildings in the immediate vicinity but, as it was a weekday and summer had wound down, there were no casualties.

While an elderly couple saw it pass within about 300 feet of them, there were no casualties from the Harpoon

The incident has since gone down as the Hovsa-Missilet or “Oops Missile” and McDonnell-Douglas ultimately paid for the damages as the operating manuals for the Harpoon system at the time stated that a launch could only take place if the launch key was inserted into the system and thus the Danes believed they could run a missile drill without launching a warshot as the firing key was secured in the safe of the Skram’s skipper when the button was pressed.

As for Skram, the 2,755-ton frigate was retired from Danish service in 1990 after 26 years on the job and never had to fire her weapons in anger. She even once escorted a battleship on NATO maneuvers. 

USS Iowa (BB-61) during an underway replenishment with the Danish frigate Peder Skram (F 352), left, and the West German destroyer Rommel (D 187) during the NATO exercise “Northern Wedding ’86”, on 1 September 1986. PHAN William Holck, USN – U.S. VIRIN: DN-SC-87-09436

She is currently a well-preserved museum ship at the Museet Skibene på Holmen in Copehhanegn– open during the summer.

Not bad looking at all…

And she still has her quad harpoon cans

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