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TRIDENT LAUNCHED AFTER NAVY `SHOULDERS’ PROTESTERS ASIDE

SHARE TRIDENT LAUNCHED AFTER NAVY `SHOULDERS’ PROTESTERS ASIDE

The Navy overpowered Greenpeace anti-nuclear protesters Monday, disabling and capturing their vessels before successfully test-launching a Trident 2 missile from a submerged submarine.

The $26.5-million missile was launched from the nuclear-powered submarine Tennessee, 50 miles off the Florida coast, the Navy announced. The success put the Trident 2 program on track after two explosive failures in the first three undersea tests.The Navy said its ships had to "shoulder" aside a large ship carrying protesters and catch and tow away two high-speed rafts, called Zodiacs, from the launch area.

Greenpeace USA peace activists said the MV Greenpeace with 25 people aboard was "dead in the water" after a Navy vessel poured water down its smoke stacks into the engine room. Greenpeace had sent the ship and the rafts into the area in an effort to halt the Trident 2 flight, just as it had done successfully with a similar intrusion on another launch attempt on July 28.

This time the 44-foot missile shot out of a tube on the Tennessee's deck, broke the Atlantic Ocean surface, ignited and propelled a dummy warhead package to a target several thousand miles away.

"We issued repeated warnings to clear the area," Cmdr. Deborah Burnette, a Navy spokeswoman, said Monday. "The MV Greenpeace acknowledged our warnings and declared its intention to stay in the area. Two submarine support ships, Grasp and the Kitty Wake, shouldered it out of the safety arc."

The launch safety zone is a 5,000-yard diameter circle around the submarine.

She said the warning clearly indicated that the MV Greenpeace would be forcibly removed from the launch area if it remained.

"Our ship has two holes in the port side, is damaged on both sides and is taking on water," said Shannon Fagan, a Greenpeace spokeswoman on shore who said her reports came by radio from the ship.

She said the Grasp used fire hoses to pour water down the smoke stack of the Greenpeace, leaving it "dead in the water."

Burnette, also speaking on shore, said the only damage she had heard of was a "one-foot diameter hole above the Greenpeace waterline."

She said Navy ships towed the two Zodiacs back to the MV Greenpeace.

Greenpeace USA headquarters in Washington issued a statement saying, "This is an incredibly aggressive act on the Navy's part. We were taking part in a peaceful non-violent protest. It is incredibly dangerous to ram a ship on the high seas and try to sink it."