Trident II D5 Missile: Keeping Up with Changing Times
February 25/20: Optional Line Item The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory won a $200.7 million contract modification to exercise the optional line item for fiscal 2020 production of TRIDENT II D5 Strategic Weapon System MK6 Guidance Equivalent Units. UGM-133A Trident II, or Trident D5, is a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Sunnyvale, California, and deployed with the American and British navies. The missile has a maximum operational range of over 7,500 miles and a CEP of 90 meters. The missile’s MK 6 Astro-inertial guidance navigation system is also able to receive GPS updates. The missiles deployed on US submarines can be equipped with a Mark 5 MIRV warhead that can carry up to 8 W88 (475 kt) warheads, or a Mark 4 MIRV that can also carry 14 W76 (100 kt) warheads. Work will take place in Massachusetts, Florida, Texas and estimated completion date is in December 2023.
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 – 2020
FY 2007 – 2008
FY 2005 – 2006
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