At least 35 Sailors aboard the UK Royal Navy Vanguard-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) HMS Vigilant (S30) have tested positive for COVID-19 after leaving a US naval base to party.
According to reports, several of the Sailors left the U.S. Navy submarine base, Naval Submarine Base (NSB) Kings Bay, in Georgia. Among those who tested positive – a quarter of the vessels team – was a doctor and an executive officer.
Daily Mail reported that the Sailors defied orders to go to strip clubs, bars and restaurants in Georgia – which has seen 318,000 coronavirus cases and 7,282 deaths. One trip saw them travel 200 miles away to Cocoa Beach in Florida.
HMS Vigilant is the third of the four Vanguard-class submarines of the Royal Navy which carry the Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM), the United Kingdom’s nuclear deterrent. While the MoD maintains its own nuclear warheads, British and U.S. submarines share a common stockpile of Trident II D5 missiles stored at Kings Bay.
“As one of the four submarines which make up the UK’s nuclear deterrent, HMS Vigilant is far from a high-profile vessel – her top-secret duties mean she must ‘disappear’ on patrol for weeks on end”, according to the Royal Navy.
HMS Vigilant is not new to controversies.
The submarine was nicknamed “HMS Sex and Cocaine” after it was revealed that nine servicemen were thrown off the submarine after cocaine was found in their blood in 2017. While the submarine was docked in the US to pick up nuclear warheads, they are alleged to have held drug-fuelled parties – with one man having sex with a prostitute in a swimming pool. A police report on the incident allegedly shows he paid £120 for sex then stole the money back from her purse.
This was followed by four officers on HMS Vigilant being disciplined for having affairs with fellow crew.