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