Trident II D5 Missile: Keeping Up with Changing Times
December 18/19: Fire Control System General Dynamics won a $299.9 million contract for fiscal 2020 through 2023 US and United Kingdom Trident II (D-5) Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines Fire Control System, Guided Missile Submarines Attack Weapon Control System, and Support Equipment Rework Facility support. The Trident II D-5 is a three-stage, solid propellant, inertially guided Fleet Ballistic Missile. The missile’s range is increased by the aerospike, a telescoping outward extension that reduces frontal drag by about 50 percent. Trident II is fired by the pressure of expanding gas in the launch tube. When the missile attains sufficient distance from the submarine, the first stage motor ignites, the aerospike extends and the boost stage begins. Work will take place in Massachusetts, Georgia, Washington, Virginia, and Florida. Estimated completion date is December 30, 2024.
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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