Trident II D5 Missile: Keeping Up with Changing Times
May 4/17: The US Navy has awarded Lockheed Martin a $64.6 million contract—with the potential to increase to $94.1 million—for engineering on the Common Compartment Strategic Weapons System. The contract includes testing of a special test vehicle, maintenance and the integration of the Trident D5 II SLBM to the system. Britain will contribute $1.9 million to the program in order to continue their collaboration on the Trident missile, despite the issue causing some controversy there over the missile’s cost and questions as to whether Britain should keep it’s undersea nuclear deterrent. However, with future upgrades, the Trident II is likely to remain both Washington and London’s main SLBM onboard both the US Ohio-class and the British Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines until 2040.
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 – 2017
FY 2007 – 2008
FY 2005 – 2006
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