Navy Extends Trident II D5 Nuclear Missile Service Life

110301-N-7237C-009National Harbor, Md. — The Navy is modernizing its arsenal of Trident II D5 nuclear missiles in order to ensure their service life can extend for 25 more years aboard the Navy’s nuclear ballistic missile submarine fleet, service leaders said.

The 44-foot long submarine-launched missiles have been serving on Ohio-class submarines for 25 years, Vice Adm. Terry Benedict, director of Strategic Systems and Programs said April 7 at the Navy League’s Sea Air Space exposition.

The missiles are also being planned as the baseline weapon for the Ohio Replacement Program ballistic missile submarine, so the Navy wants to extend their service life for at least an additional 25 years, Benedict said.

“Ohio Replacement will be in service until the 2080s, so a submarine missile launching capability must last that long,” he said. “The D5 system has served us well. However, 25 years is about the max of what we planned for the system.”

Benedict said the Navy has been working on technical upgrades to the existing Trident II D 5 in order to prevent obsolescence and ensure the missile system remains viable for the next several decades.

“We’ve modernized the guidance system by replacing two key components due to obsolescence – the inertial measurement unit and the electronics assembly,” Benedict said.

Under the U.S.-Russia New START treaty signed in 2010, roughly 70-percent of the U.S.’ nuclear warheads will be deployed on submarines, Benedict explained.

The 130,000-pound Trident II D5 missile can travel 20,000-feet per second and reach ranges of 4,000 nautical miles, according to Navy figures. The missiles cost $30 million each.

The Navy has recently acquired an additional 108 Trident II D 5 missiles in order to strengthen the inventory for testing and further technological development.

“We’re continually upgrading and testing new aspects of the missile system. We’ve had 148 successful test flights of the missile,” said John Daniels, spokesman for the Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs.

As part of the technical improvements to the missile, the Navy is upgrading what’s called the Mk-4 re-entry body, the part of the missile that houses a thermonuclear warhead. The life extension for the Mk-4 re-entry body includes efforts to replace components including the firing circuit, Benedict said.

The Navy is also working with the Air Force on refurbishing the Mk-5 re-entry body which will be ready by 2019, Benedict said.

Benedict said the Mk-5 re-entry body has more yield than a Mk-4 re-entry body, adding that more detail on the differences was not publically available.

The missile also has a larger structure called a release assembly which houses and releases the re-entry bodies, Navy officials said. There is an ongoing effort to engineer a new release assembly that will work with either the Mk-4 or Mk-5 re-entry body.

The Trident II D5 also arms the United Kingdom’s Vanguard ballistic missile submarine. In fact, the U.S. and UK are collaboratively working on a common missile compartment for their next generation SSBNs, or ballistic missile submarines.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • Lance

    I hope to see this in modernization not crap like LCS,

    • xXTomcatXx

      You have a real knack for making irrelevant comments. Bravo sir.

  • Beno

    Interesting why increade the size of the new common missle compartment if you intend to use the same missles for the life of the boat ?

  • So if they want to develop a newer/larger missile for the ships to carry

  • Musson

    At the risk of being downclicked – I will make the observation that the CIC does not believe it is fair for the USA to have superiority in nuclear weapons. He will attempt to negotiate away most (if not all) of the nuclear arsenal before he leaves office.

    He has already suggested a 400 bomb limit for all US forces.

  • hibeam

    We all do the same thing. When your broke you look at bald tires and decide they have a few more years in them. The reason we are broke is pandering fools have turned elections into game shows. We need a balanced budget amendment.

  • That Trident 11 is bad-ass.

  • Mystick

    I thought they were phasing these out in favor of the Tomahawk 6-pack refit…

  • In the current world there are too many MOD’s and too many weapons. Enough to kill the world more than thousands Times. So many idiots are still believe in making more weapons .. the world most dangerous and the hardest job is not being in military, extremist organization, space walk, space travel, under water welder , electrician (are interesting and enjoyable jobs).

    The world most dangerous job is being in so called British MENTAL health services and getting it RIGHT.

  • Robert Powell

    Once comrade cockroach is down the road kicking rocks and little kids we can ask trump for a loan to up-scale the navy again..