The U.S. Navy’s Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, USS Nebraska (SSBN-739) successfully test launched two Trident II D5 Life Extension Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM) on March 26, 2018.
The test, known as Demonstration and Shakedown Operation (DASO) 28, took place in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California. It demonstrated the readiness of the crew of the submarine and the strategic weapon system built and upgraded by Lockheed Martin.
The missiles were launched as a double mission test and were the key element of DASO 28, which marked the 166th and 167th successful test flights of the Trident II D5 missile since its introduction to the fleet in 1989. The primary objective of the DASO is to evaluate and demonstrate the readiness of the SSBN’s strategic weapon system and crew before operational deployment following midlife refueling overhaul.
SSP, along with Naval Ordnance Test Unit, oversees the DASO certification process and provides integrated testing and evaluation capabilities, while various other organizations provide support. More than 130 special guests were invited aboard USNS Waters (T-AGS 45), a Military Sealift Command (MSC) vessel, to witness the event and learn more about SSP and the DASO process.
“The successful completion of DASO 28 was not only an important milestone in USS Nebraska’s return to service, but also an important demonstration of the reliable and credible sea-based leg of the U.S. nuclear deterrent triad,” said Capt. Mark Behning, deputy director, SSP.
Waters is an MSC vessel that provides support during the DASO launch as part of its mission. Instrumentation and personnel, such as engineers and scientists, are embarked aboard Waters to track the submarine and missile throughout the launch process. Capt. Mike Elmstrom, commanding officer, Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific (SWFPAC), and his crew took part in the design modifications of the D5 missiles and planning the test.
“In addition to certifying the submarine and crew for patrol, the test launch collected valuable data about the performance of the D5 Life Extension missile configuration,” said Eric Scherff, vice president of Navy Strategic Programs at Lockheed Martin. “Instead of warheads, the missiles carried test kits and instrumentation to give us troves of information about flight and subsystem performance. The joint government and industry team will use this data to assess performance and to inform maintenance and sustainment plans for the upgraded Trident missile fleet for decades to come.”
The joint government-industry team achieved initial fleet introduction of the D5 Life Extension, or LE, design last year. With modernized electronics and upgraded avionics subsystems, the Trident II D5 LE configuration will be in service with the U.S. Navy and U.K. Royal Navy through the 2040s. The Life Extension program modernized the submarine-launched ballistic missile while maintaining the proven performance of the D5 missile for significantly less than the cost of designing a new missile.
DASO-28 increased the Trident II D5 record to 167 successful test launches since design completion in 1989 – the most reliable test record for a large ballistic missile.
USS Nebraska (SSBN 739) is the 14th submarine of the Ohio-class of ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), and the second U.S. Navy ship to bear the name. Assigned to Submarine Group 9, Nebraska is one of eight ballistic-missile submarines homeported at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, Wash.
The mission of the SSBN force is strategic deterrence, by providing the United States with its most survivable and enduring nuclear strike capability. Ohio-class submarines serve as an undetectable launch platform for submarine-launched ballistic missiles. They are considered the most survivable leg of the nuclear triad; the other legs being long-range bombers and land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles.
UGM-133A Trident II/ Trident D5
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.
It was first deployed in March 1990, and remains in service. The Trident II Strategic Weapons System is an improved SLBM with greater accuracy, payload, and range than the earlier Trident C-4. It is a key element of the U.S. strategic nuclear triad.
The missile has a range of 4,230 nautical miles (7,840 km) with full load and approx. 7,500 mi (12,000 km)
with reduced load (exact is classified) with a speculated circular error probable (CEP) of 90 metres (300 ft). The missile is guided with the MK 6 Astro-inertial guidance navigation system which is able to receive GPS (Global Positioning System) updates.
Trident II (D5) missiles are carried by 14 U.S Navy Ohio-class and 4 British Royal Navy Vanguard-class nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN).
The Ohio-class SSBNs are able to carry 24 missiles each while Vanguard-class submarines can carry 16 missiles each. The number of missiles on Ohio-class submarines will be reduced to 20 each in coming years, in compliance with the New Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty.
The D5 is the sixth in a series of missile generations deployed since the sea-based deterrent program began 60 years ago. The Trident D5LE (life-extension) version will remain in service until 2042.