Trident II D5 Missile: Keeping Up with Changing Times
March 4/19: Columbia and Dreadnought Class Strategic Systems Programs contracted Lockheed Martin with a $28.6 million modification in support of the integration of the TRIDENT II (D5) Missile and Reentry Subsystems into the Common Missile Compartment for the Columbia Class and United Kingdom Dreadnought programs. The modification exercises options for engineering efforts. The TRIDENT II D5 fleet ballistic missile is a three-stage, solid-propellant, inertial-guided missile that can carry multiple independently targeted reentry bodies for a maximum range of over 7,360 kilometers. The Trident II D5 guidance system directs the missile on a rectified trajectory counterbalancing for submarine’s awkward position, in-flight effects and internal guidance calibratable parameters, upon launch of the missile. The guidance system works as the reference for maintaining missile stability and activating the reentry body separation for a ballistic trajectory. The Columbia Class submarine is an upcoming class of submarines aimed to replace Ohio Class ballistic missile submarines, whose remaining boats will be decommissioned, one per year, beginning in 2027. The Columbia-class will take over the role of submarine presence in the United States’ strategic nuclear force. The first submarine is scheduled to begin construction in 2021 and enter service in 2031. A total of 12 submarines are planned. Each submarine will have 16 missile tubes, each carrying one Trident II D5LE missile. The UK Dreadnought Class is the replacement for the TRIDENT II D5 Royal Navy’s missile carrying Vanguard Class submarines. Work under the modification will take place in California, Florida, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and is expected to be finished by March 31, 2021.
Nuclear tipped missiles were first deployed on board US submarines at the height of the Cold War in the 1960s, to deter a Soviet first strike. The deterrence theorists argued that, unlike their land-based cousins, submarine-based nuclear weapons couldn’t be taken out by a surprise first strike, because the submarines were nearly impossible to locate and target. Which meant that Soviet leaders could not hope to destroy all of America’s nuclear weapons before they could be launched against Soviet territory. SLBM/FBM (Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile/ Fleet Ballistic Missile) offered shorter ranges and less accuracy than their land-based ICBM (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile) counterparts, but the advent of Trident C4 missiles began extending those ranges, and offering other improvements. The C4s were succeeded by larger Trident II D5 missiles, which added precision accuracy and more payload.
The year that the Trident II D5 ballistic missile was first deployed, 1990, saw the beginning of the end of the missile’s primary mission. Even as the Soviet Union began to implode, the D5’s performance improvements were making the Trident submarine force the new backbone of the USA’s nuclear deterrent – and of Britain’s as well. To ensure that this capability was maintained at peak readiness and safety, the US Navy undertook a program in 2002 to replace aging components of the Trident II D5 missile called the D5 Life Extension (LE) Program. This article covers D5 LE, as well as support and production contracts associated with the American and British Trident missile fleets.
D5 Life Extension Program
Contracts and Key Events
FY 2014 – 2019
FY 2007 – 2008
FY 2005 – 2006
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