Navy: Upgrades Required for Trident Launch System

Navy leaders said Wednesday the service must ensure the Pentagon remains committed to upgrades to the Trident missile launch system in line with the development of the replacement for the Ohio-class nuclear submarine fleet.

Rear Adm. Terry Benedict, director of the Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs, said it is necessary to revitalize and qualify the launch systems of the Trident II D-5, which is deployed aboard the U.S. Navy’s 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile subs and Britain’s four Vanguard-class submarines.

“The Trident is the most survivable leg of the Triad, and it also gives the U.S. a second-strike ability,” Benedict said at the annual Sea Air Space Exposition at National Harbor, Md.

The missile – currently the Trident II D-5 version – was developed and deployed jointly by both the U.S. and the United Kingdom since the 1990s. The missile has been going through life-extensions and the two countries plan to continue deploying them as they transition to the next-generation nuclear submarine.

While budget pressures mount with the sequestration cuts to defense funding, service leaders will be forced to balance modernization priorities. Benedict emphasized the importance of maintaining investment in updating the systems associated within the Nuclear triad.

The U.S. Navy plans to replace its 14 Ohio-class subs with a dozen new ballistic missile submarines. The Navy awarded General Dynamics’ Electric Boat Division a $1.85 billion contract for the development of the Ohio-Class Replacement Program.

The Ohio-class subs start hitting their end-of-life in 2027, and will be retired in the years following. The Navy anticipates its replacements to come on line by the mid-2020s.

Navy leaders have said they can accept the risk of two fewer nuclear capable submarines because of the speed and stealth capability the service expects to develop into the new Ohio-class. Those same leaders will also depend on improved accuracy of upgraded Tridents.

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Bryant Jordan
Bryant Jordan is a reporter for He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @BryantJordan.
  • Benjamin

    It will be interesting to see if the missile gets a new designation (Trident III perhaps). It is good to see improvements being done here because the SSBN is the most survivable portion of the nuclear triad

  • PolicyWonk

    It will also be interesting to see if they intend to build some more SSGN variants – or if that was just a knock-off to preserve the Ohio hulls that would’ve otherwise had to be decommissioned.

    If they build a few new ones – they got a lot of use out of the ones we have now.

  • Tad

    It will also be interesting to see if US industry still has the brilliant engineering and technical know-how of yesteryear that it will take to develop and build a significantly improved version of the Ohio class.

    • blight_

      They will likely use some insights from the VA class. I’m curious if they will go for a bigger SSBN to carry more missiles, or smaller subs that carry less missiles, but can be more widely distributed across the planet, and possibly fulfill other missions.


      Well, I don’t doubt the ability for the US to make an advanced sub or really anything. All future, aspiring engineers know that if you want to get into advanced, technical projects in defense, US is the way. We managed to build the F-22, and it is quite advanced. More important, I think, is if the big dome in DC will give the funds, and the research time, for a sub.

    • Tiger
  • bobbymike

    Neptune class with a Trident E6

  • This is poor timing for our advantage since
    North Korean is not waiting, get it together advance system sounds like maintenance.

  • Dr. H

    North Korea? That doesn’t require SLBMs. If they jab US interests with some atomic warhead, it would not be a mutually assured destruction (MAD) scenario. It would be a singularly assure destruction (SAD) scenario. They can’t effectively harm us, but we can destroy their infrastructure and destroy their regime with just conventional weapons…which is also why we need more SSGNs, less SSGNs.

  • Mystick

    They have been retrofitting subs with the Block V VLS to fire Tomahawk’s since the late 90’s/early 2000’s. Instead of one SLBM, you get 6 cruise missiles(nuclear capable). Much shorter range than the Trident systems, but with wider targeting options.

    Supposedly, this system is what was used in the US’s contribution to the Libyan “revolution”.

  • Professor Ski!!!
  • Professor Ski!!!
  • tiger

    Upgrades to the launch system? What is there to upgrade really? The basics have not changed much since Polaris.

  • ronaldo

    Thanks for the intelligent responses ! I hadn’t a clue that they were using the same type of
    logic as a pinball machine. The noise, heat , power and reliability make that one a natural for SS logic.