The U.S. Navy conducted successful test flights February 22 of two Trident II D5 Fleet Ballistic Missiles built by Lockheed Martin. This brings the D5 missile’s record to 155 successful test flights since design completion in 1989, a 25-year-plus reliability record unmatched by any other large ballistic missile.
«These latest test flights demonstrate the reliability of the D5 missile and the readiness of the entire Trident Strategic Weapon System every minute of every day», said Mat Joyce, vice president of Fleet Ballistic Missile programs and deputy for Strategic & Missile Defense Systems, Lockheed Martin Space Systems. «The Navy program office, the submarine crews and the industry team never rest to ensure the safety, security and performance of this crucial deterrence system».
The Navy launched the unarmed missiles in the Pacific Ocean from a submerged Ohio-class submarine. The missiles were converted into test configurations using kits produced by Lockheed Martin that contain range safety devices and flight telemetry instrumentation.
The Navy conducts a continuing series of operational system evaluation tests of the Trident Strategic Weapon System, which is the sea-based element of the nation’s nuclear deterrent triad, under the testing guidelines of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
First deployed in 1990, the D5 missile is aboard U.S. Navy Ohio-class and U.K. Royal Navy Vanguard-class submarines. The three-stage ballistic missile can travel a nominal range of 4,000 nautical miles (7,408 kilometers) and carries multiple independently targeted reentry bodies.
Trident II D5 Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM)
The Trident II D5 is the latest generation of the U.S. Navy’s submarine-launched fleet ballistic missiles, following the highly successful Polaris, Poseidon, and Trident I C4 programs. First deployed in 1990, the Trident II D5 missile is currently aboard Ohio-class and British Vanguard-class submarines. Each missile weighs approximately 130,000 pounds (58,967 kilograms).
Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, the Navy’s Trident missile prime contractor, developed and produced the missile and support equipment. The company also supplies technical and logistical support at sites where the missiles are deployed.
The FBM team continues to build on a remarkable mission success track record. Through June 2014, the Trident II D5 missile has achieved 150 successful test flights since design completion in 1989 – a record unmatched by any other large ballistic missile or space launch vehicle.
The first Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) developed and deployed by the United States was the Polaris A1 missile, named for the North Star. A two-stage ballistic missile with a range of 1,200 nautical miles (2,222 kilometers), the A1 was powered by solid fuel rocket motors and guided by a self-contained inertial guidance system independent of external commands or control. The A1’s first successful underwater launch from a submarine on July 20, 1960, brought to fruition a remarkable Navy and industry research and development effort begun only four years earlier. Subsequent Polaris missiles, the A2 and A3, increased the range and thus the operating area of the stealthy deterrent. U.S. deployment of the Polaris missile series ended with the retirement of the A3 in 1979.
The next generation of fleet ballistic missiles to follow Polaris was the Poseidon C3 missile. The Poseidon, despite being 20 inches (508 mm) wider in diameter, 36 inches (914 mm) longer and approximately 30,000 pounds (13,608 kilograms) heavier, fit into the same 16 launch tubes that carried Polaris. Poseidon carried twice the payload of the Polaris A3 with significantly improved accuracy. The first Poseidon test launch occurred on August 16, 1968. The first submarine-based test launch occurred on August 3, 1970, from USS James Madison (SSBN-627). The Poseidon was declared operational on March 31, 1971, and was deployed aboard all 31 Lafayette Class submarines.
The Trident I C4 missiles were the longest continuously operated Fleet Ballistic Missiles ever deployed by the U.S. Navy. Using advanced technology in propellants, micro-electronics and new weight-saving materials, the Trident I C4 missile incorporated the multiple independently-targeted vehicle capability of its predecessor Poseidon and provided an astounding range of more than 4,000 nautical miles (7,408 kilometers) with a full payload.