Trident II D5 Missile: Keeping Up with Changing Times
November 22/19: Strategic Weapon System Programs BAE Systems won a $15.8 million modification to provide services for the US and United Kingdom Trident II D5 strategic weapon system programs, US SSGN attack weapon systems, nuclear weapon surety and future concepts. The Trident II D5 is the latest generation of the US Navy’s submarine-launched fleet ballistic missiles. The Trident II Strategic Weapon System is deployed aboard Ohio Class submarines and consists of: the Trident II (D5) Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile; Reentry System; and supporting Shipboard Systems. It is a three-stage, solid-fuel, inertially-guided missile with a range of 4,000 nautical miles capable of carrying multiple W76-Mk4/Mk4A or W88-Mk5 reentry bodies. The missile is launched by the pressure of expanding gas within the launch tube. When the missile broaches the waterline, it enters the boost phase, expending its first, second, and third-stage rocket motors. Following third-stage motor separation, the missile deploys the reentry bodies. Expected completion date is September 30, 2020.
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
Fill in the secure form below to activate your subscription right away (or pick another plan)